In a recent turn of events, St Ursula's School Kingsgrove has revised its policy regarding the attendance of same-sex couples at the school formal.
Abbie Frankland, the girlfriend of a St Ursula's student, started a Change.org petition after she discovered the school did not permit same-sex couples to attend the formal together.
But on Friday, November 3, after a meeting with students, the school reversed its decision, a spokesperson for Change.org said, allowing Abbie and her girlfriend Emily to attend the formal together on November 9.
In a victory update to petition supporters, Abbie said, "We are thrilled to share we received a decision from the school, and they have granted permission for me to attend the school formal with my girlfriend Emily.
"To everyone who signed our petition, shared our story, and stood with us in solidarity, a heartfelt thank you. Your support has made a difference."
"We hope that our story can inspire others to challenge discriminatory policies and practices wherever they exist."
A spokesperson for Sydney Catholic Schools said the school would not comment on, or enter into a public debate about, an internal school matter.
The petition received thousands of signatures. People also posted on the school's Facebook page on the matter. A member of the school's alumni wrote students should have a right to celebrate their final years of schooling with their friends, without discrimination.
"Our faith preaches equality and love of all. It is what we were taught by the Ursuline community those many years ago, what I have passed on to my family, my children and grandchildren," she wrote. "I would hope that our leaders are enlightened and allow the young women to celebrate with their loved ones without prejudice."
But others backed the school's initial ban. "Why send kids there if you don't agree with the religious views?" a parent posted. "You can't ask religions to change their values. Take your kids to a public school if you don't like it. If the school wants to have its own rules, then be fully private."
In a letter addressed to NSW Premier Chris Minns, also emailed to the Leader, St Ursula's parents said they should be allowed to hold a "diversity of beliefs in a pluralist society, even when beliefs differ", without 'government intrusion'. They described the government's apparent support of the school's overturned decision as 'jarring'.
"We acknowledge that Catholic teaching on sexuality is starkly counter-cultural and even unpalatable to many, and that is quite OK," parents wrote. "All that is asked of government is that it respect and defend, when necessary, our right to hold and freely practice our religious beliefs."
Parents said although they had no doubt there was compassion from the government toward LGBTQIA+ students, there had been pressure on the school, a faith-based community, to adopt a position it does not freely hold.
"As people of faith, we seek assurance that the government will not again pressure a religious school community to transgress its own beliefs and values," parents wrote. "We are being left with no safe spaces to believe, practice and transmit our faith."
Another parent praised the school for reversing the decision. "Thank you St Ursula's College for the love, kindness and acceptance shown. Thank you to the principal, who students say is a kind and loving person- she sure is. Here's to a fun formal for all."
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