The New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal has dismissed a complaint accusing the Bishop of Auckland of discrimination against homosexuals.
On 18 October 2013 the tribunal ruled the Bishop of Auckland, the Rt. Rev. Ross Bay, had not violated the country’s Human Rights laws by refusing to allow Eugene Sisneros to begin the ordination process on because he is in a same-sex partnership.
Mr. Sisneros, a lay employee of St. Matthews-in-the-City in Auckland, filed a complaint with the tribunal stating he “felt totally humiliated that I had spent six years of my life in study, for a process that I was not permitted to enter because I was a gay man and in a relationship,” adding “My humiliation and disappointment continue to this day.”
New Zealand’s Human Rights Act 1993 forbids discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation. However Part 2 Section 28 of the Act permits “exceptions for purposes of religion” and allows “different treatment based on religious or ethical belief” by churches in the employment of clergy.
Bishop Bay told One News on 5 May 2013 Mr Sisneros had been turned away from the ordination process “by reason of the defendant not being chaste, in terms of canons of the Anglican Church.”
Chastity as understood by the church – as stated in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 – is a state of life where one is celibate when unmarried, or is in a marriage between one man and one woman.
In its decision, the tribunal held the church did not breach the Human Rights Act because it was complying with its own exceptions, and its denial of Mr. Sisnernos’ candidacy was allowed under Section 28 of the Act. “The Human Rights Act 1993 allows exceptions to some discrimination laws, including where organised religions are following their doctrine.”
“The Tribunal is not asked to deliberate on what the rules, doctrines or established customs within the Anglican Church are, or ought to be,” it held.
Bishop Bay welcomed the ruling, telling Radio New Zealand the decision balanced individual human rights with the autonomous nature of the Church, in a way that ensures freedom of religion.
Mr. Sisneros has a right to appeal the ruling.