Church support for gay school formals
April 15, 2008 01:36am
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Head of Anglican Church backs same-sex formals
Says he has no personal objection
Presides over school that banned same-sex formals
THE head of the Anglican Church in Australia has backed gay and lesbian students taking same-sex partners to school formals.
Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall yesterday said he had no “personal objection to a school deciding to allow boys to take friends who are boys, or girls to take friends who are girls to school formals”.
His comments came after it was revealed that a prestigious Brisbane school had insisted students take a member of the opposite sex to their school formal.
Several students at Churchie – the Anglican Church Boys’ Grammar School – had wanted to escort their same-sex partners to the event in June, and approached a senior member of staff to raise the issue.
Headmaster Jonathan Hensman said, while no one had approached him personally, he would refer any requests to the school council if they did – although it was tradition for the young men to escort a member of the opposite sex to the school formal.
Despite his apparent support for the gay students, Dr Aspinall, who is president of the school’s council, said the school had a right to enforce a ban on same-sex partners if it felt the move was necessary.
“I understand that in this particular instance the school has decided that its approach is to emphasise the interaction of young men and young women and provide them with an opportunity to do that in this kind of formal setting and I have no objection to that either,” he said.
“I think that’s a reasonable and legitimate approach for a school to take.”
Yesterday former student Dale Hinds, 20, said he was forcibly outed by his peers in Year 9 but got “fantastic support” from staff and was gradually accepted by fellow students.
“In Year 9 I copped a lot of c***, in Year 10 I had to stand up for myself but by the end of Year 12 there was only one student out of 266 who gave me any grief,” Mr Hinds said.
Although he took his female best friend to his formal in 2005, Mr Hinds said it would be a huge gesture of acceptance for the school to permit same-sex partners.
“The Churchie formal is not about being gay. It’s about being treated fairly and equally and being respected,” he said.
The issue of same-sex partners at the formal has sparked massive debate throughout the wider community, with principal psychologist with the Centre for Human Potential Paul Martin arguing that many schools believed it was OK to be gay as long as you did not act in a way that reflected it.
“I’m not saying the school is no good or they’ve done a terrible thing,” he said.
“On a one-on-one level they do a great job with their students, but when they put their foot down unfortunately it just sends out a very, very powerful message that ‘Look it’s fine if you’re gay, as long as you don’t do anything about it like have a gay relationship or express how you feel in that way’.”
Mr Martin said he saw three or four clients a week who had been “extremely damaged” as a result of homophobic schoolyard bullying.
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