Religious charities have been cleared to ban gay couples from adopting children in New South Wales, Australia after a landmark court ruling.

The New South Wales Administrative Decisions Tribunal found in favour of Wesley Mission, part of the Uniting Church which is part of the Uniting Church who had previously been found guilty of discriminating against a gay couple that wanted to adopt children.

The case dates back to 2002 when a gay couple lodged a complain using the Anti-Discrimination Act after the mission refused to consider them for an adopted child. A tribunal found in favour of the couple in 2007 and awarded each of the men $5,000 each.

But Wesley Mission appealed and a review panel overturned the decision, ruling the tribunal had erred in deciding the mission didn’t have a right to discriminate on religious grounds.

The new decision allows birth parents to discriminate against potential adopters who don’t share their own religious beliefs. If the religious beliefs include thinking that homosexuality is wrong, then gay couples can be banned.

However, the Mission’s service does allow gay couples to foster children.

New South Wales Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said yesterday that current legislation struck the right balance between religion and protection from discrimination. “It is not envisaged that there will be changes to the current exemptions in relation to religious institutions,” a spokesman said.