Oct. 1, 2014, 2 p.m.
COUNCIL have taken a bold step and voted in favour of supporting a same-sex marriage equality proclamation that will be presented to the Prime Minister.
It was a contentious topic between the councillors in attendance at last Wednesday’s meeting with the vote eventually swinging five to four in favour of the recommendation.
A request had come from Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson to support the same-sex marriage equality proclamation.
Mr Richardson said denying same sex couples equal rights to marry was discriminatory and a violation of basic human rights.
“We will be collecting Marriage Equality Proclamations from local government areas across Australia, with the intent of presenting these to the Prime Minister.
“We believe our elected leaders have a responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens,” he said.
General manager Lotta Jackson reminded councillors before their vote that “marriage is not a religious ceremony” and council were a “secular organisation”.
“Access and equity is very key in local government – I’m sure the Byron Shire did not only send this to us,” Ms Jackson said.
Councillor Blair Maxwell spoke strongly on supporting the liberties of all citizens.
“This is a very serious discussion – I would expect we provide those rights of equity to everyone.
“I fear if we don’t support this we would not be following the rules set down in our policies,” he said.
The vote has stirred controversy with some questioning the need for the discussion in a local government forum.
Pastor Jim Seymour from Tenterfield’s Presbyterian Church Family sent a letter to each councillor prior to the vote erring them on the side of caution.
“I believe that any councillor found on the side of the ledger supporting such an abominable position after votes have been counted, is exposing themselves to an uncertain future,” Mr Seymour said.
Cr Mary Leahy voted in favour of the proclamation but said she felt it was a community issue that needed to be treated as such by holding a shire-wide vote.
“I don’t know the feeling in our shire and I feel this would be a divisive issue.
“This shire however, for a rural one, is quite remarkable in its acceptance of same-sex couples.”