Monday, 2 March 2015

Polyamory is not sexual orientation: court

A Brisbane counsellor who was sacked by the Catholic Church because she was polyamorous failed to get her job back in court, as it was not discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to the judge.

The counsellor's name appeared on the Brisbane Poly website as a poly friendly counsellor. Her name was then found as a member. On being called to a meeting and asked to give an explanation, the counsellor, Susan Bunning, who was practice manager at Centacare in Fortitude Valley, was summarily sacked.

Ms Bunning complained to the Australian Human Rights Commission on the basis that she had been discriminated against based on sexual orientation. her complaint was dismissed. she then appealed to the Federal Circuit Court.

Judge Vasta dismissed her application. He said:

"If the contention of the Applicant were correct, many people whose sexual activity might label them as sado-masochists, coprophiliacs or urophiliacs could claim that such is more than mere behaviour; it is in fact their very sexual orientation. If the contention were correct, then the illegal activities of paedophilia and necrophilia may have the protection of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). Such a result would be an absurdity.

"This is because sexual orientation is something far more than how one behaves sexually. Many religious persons take a vow of chastity and do not behave sexually at all. Yet they still can have a sexual orientation under the definition in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. This is because their behaviour does not define their orientation."

"I am led to the inexorable conclusion that “sexual orientation”, as the term is used in s. 4 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), covers only that which it expressly covers, i.e., the state of being. It does not cover behaviours."

"In my view, it is not possible to be polyamorous unless one engages in  polyamory. Polyamory  is a manifestation of the state of being that is a person’s particular sexual orientation. It is a “behaviour”, rather than a state of being.

"The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the term “ polyamory ” as:“The mating pattern of having a number of sexual partners at the same time”
The Australian Oxford Dictionary defines the term as:
“The practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved.”Therefore, one has to behave in a polyamorous way to be, in fact, polyamorous. It is not a state of being existing in and of itself. I am also comforted in this conclusion by the Applicant’s own statement in her application before the AHRC in which she characterises  polyamory  as a “lifestyle”."

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