MILDURA Rural City councillors will be called on to support gay marriages at its monthly meeting tomorrow.
But already the proposal has met with strong opposition,
Mayor Glen Milne declaring he would vote against it because “the normal process” had not been followed.
“Normal process really should be some community consultation rather than having a handful of councillors make a declaration on behalf of the community,” he said.
Cr Ali Cupper’s Notice of Motion will ask her fellow councillors to “proclaim support for marriage equality” and support the call that “it is time for Australia to legalise all marriages equally”.
The Notice of Motion was seconded by Cr Judi Harris, and so far has the tacit support of at least two other councillors.
Yesterday, Cr Cupper said having the issue of marriage equality debated in the council was “really exciting. I’m rapt about it.”
Her motivation, she said, followed an overwhelming vote in March 2014 by the Byron Shire Council to support marriage equality.
Byron Mayor Simon Richardson then invited all mayors in Australia to join a Mayors for Marriage Equality group and sign a Proclamation of Local Government Support for Marriage Equality which will then be sent to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Cr Cupper said the issue of marriage equality was complicated.
“(With this motion) I’m trying to engender equality and respect for a group which has, for too long, been marginalised.
“For my friends and my peers it is an issue of importance.”
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.”
Draft text – Marriage Equality Proclamation
We, of Byron Shire Council, proclaim our support for Marriage Equality.
We believe that marriage between two consenting adults deserves to be celebrated, validated, acknowledged and legal.
We believe in absolute Marriage Equality beyond the notion that a civil union is “enough”.
We believe that Marriage Equality is a human rights issue.
We believe that Marriage Equality is a human respect issue.
We believe in celebrating the diversity of our society.
We believe in inclusion.
We believe that it is time for Australia to legalise all marriages equally.
In March 2014 Byron Shire Council resolved (13-125) to support marriage equality.
Denying same-sex couples the right to marry is discriminatory, and a violation of their human rights. As Amnesty International has commented, it is concerning that anything less than full and equal recognition of same-sex marriage insinuates that relationships between same-sex couples are not as valuable as relationships between heterosexual couples. Sending such messages of institutional inequity is damaging to society generally, and to young people particularly, whatever their sexual orientation.
As a first step, Byron Shire Council has written to Federal Senators and Parliamentary party leaders urging them to support the passage of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2013.
Byron Shire Council believes that equality in the recognition of relationship status is appropriate in our modern Australian society. As our society evolves, our children grow up, and our community welcomes new members from other cultures, it is vital that we are seen to be demonstrating what equity and inclusion means in practice. Indeed it is by our actions today on issues such as marriage equality that we will strongly influence the community of our future.
Draft Marriage Equality Proclamation
Request for feedback – Proclamation of support for marriage equality
Ideas are sought for the wording of a draft Marriage Equality Proclamation. When this proclamation is finalised Council will be inviting other local government areas to co-sign the document and we will then forward the document to the Prime Minister.
Council has started with some draft text which you can view below. Feel free to base your ideas upon this text, or come up with something original. Let us hear your ideas. What would you like to see included? What would you prefer to see left out?
Please email responses to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Monday 14th April 2014 and ensure that you type Proclamation of support for marriage equality in the subject line of your emailed response.
BYRON SHIRE COUNCIL
ORDINARY MEETING MINUTES 14 MARCH 2013
Notice of Motion No. 8.5. Support for Marriage Equality
1. That Council declares itself a supporter of marriage equality as a human right and advertises this support on its website front page and within its community bulletins.
2. That upon the introduction of marriage equality legislation in the Australian Senate, Council write to all Senators and Federal parliamentary party leaders urging support for the legislation, in order to afford the same validity, legality, acknowledgement and respect to all couples who wish to formalise a love based union, regardless of sexual orientation.
3. That Council, though not legally enforceable, provide a Byron Shire Certificate of Marriage, upon request, for same sex marriage ceremonies within Byron Shire.
4. That the Mayor, or other Councillors, present the certificate at the ceremony if requested and if availability permits.
5. That the community be invited to contribute text and design for the certificate.
6. That Council provide a Registry of Marriage for same sex couples to record marriages within the Byron Shire.
7. That any costs for both the registry and certificate be borne by the recipients.
8. That Council:
a) Supports the creation of a “Love Garden”, whereby a tree is planted in a public space to record and celebrate a same sex marriage within Byron Shire as a symbol of our community’s expression for inclusion and support for marriage equality
b) Prepare a report outlining possible locations, costs, and procedures involved
9. That Council:
a) Creates a Proclamation of Local Government Support for Marriage Equality and writes to all Local Government Areas in Australia, inviting them to co-sign the proclamation
b) Invite the community to contribute text for the proclamation
c) Upon completion of the co-signing, forward the proclamation to the Prime Minister
10. That Council create a Mayors for Marriage Equality group and write to all Local Government Mayors in Australia, inviting them to join the group and to invite input into ways to formalise and develop this collaboration.
The motion (Richardson/Cameron) was put to the vote and declared carried. Crs Cubis, Wanchap and Hunter voted against the motion.
Councillor’s Background Notes
When we consider the question of marriage equality, it is worth considering the international national and local context.
Internationally, the nations that Australia often compares itself against are all moving in one direction- towards an equitable, inclusive, mature society. Even in the face of fundamentalist opposition in the USA, President Obama’s courageous change in stance added to a growing chorus of state leaders that support marriage equality, such as recently elected Socialist French President, Francois Hollande, and Conservative UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. Overall, the following nations recognise marriage equality, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, France, the UK and Denmark. The sky failed to fall in when any of these countries recognized marriage equality.
Nationally, Society wants to join the modern world. Galaxy Research polling (2009-2012) shows: 64% of Australians support marriage equality, a majority of Christians (53%) support marriage equality, 76% of Coalition voters want Abbott to allow a conscience vote, 75% believe the reform is inevitable, and 81% of young people (18-24 years) support marriage equality. The denial of a right to marry violates core Australian values of a fair go and an egalitarian ethic that signals not everyone is equal.
According to Amnesty International,
“Same-sex couples that are denied the opportunity to marry have to prove the existence of their relationship. This can be particularly onerous in situations where the next of kin status is contested, such as in situations of intestacy or medical emergencies.
Civil unions are often posited as an adequate remedy to the aforementioned lack of formal recognition. The response to this is simple: if the Government pursues hierarchical mechanisms for recognising relationships, it sends out a troubling social message that same-sex relationships are not as valuable as heterosexual ones. Segregation fosters inequality – it does not remedy it.”
Locally, it is vital that when a section of our community is discriminated against, we speak out on their behalf. On behalf of the adult members of our community who simply want to have their loving union recognised, respected and validated, this Notice of Motion speaks loud and proud. On behalf of our younger community members who may be isolated, the victim of homophobia or sitting in their room suffocated by feelings of fear, mental pain, confusion and ostracism, this Notice of Motion speaks loud and proud. On behalf of the overwhelming portion of our community who refuse to accept discrimination, marginalisation, segregation and inequality in any form, this Notice of motion speaks loud and proud.
Byron Shire Marriage Certificate
Byron Shire can be the change we want to see in Australia. By providing a marriage certificate for same sex unions, we provide a tangible document of our support. If requested, the Mayor could present this. The Mayor presides over a citizenship ceremony, presenting a certificate; this would elevate the Shire’s support of those committing to a love based union to that status. Though it is unlikely that the Mayor could attend all, and in fact may not be invited to many, the position of Mayor, Councillor or Council Senior Executive are positions of leadership, and lead they should. Like most things within the Shire, the possibility exists of members of the community providing creativity, thus, why not open to them the possibility of creating a wonderful, Byron style certificate?
Registry of Marriage
Again, this records the commitment of a love-based union. It could be held at Council, picked up and used by a marriage celebrant, or filled in at Council, upon presentation of a Byron Shire marriage Certificate.
There is little symbol of love as apt as a growing tree. It is beautiful to observe and be near, it grows and changes, it blossoms, it is watered by tears and laughter. Commitment to relationships are not easy, they require tenacity, flexibility and strong will. Trees too require these attributes to survive,as like Nietzsche said, “For a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots among the rocks.” By providing a space where love is honoured and symbolically captured, it will be a public reminder of the grace, acceptance and beauty of the Shire that created it. How it will be facilitated will be borne from the report; it could be provided to couples, like the citizenship ceremony for them to plant, or perhaps more appropriately, it may be that a quarterly or half yearly planting by staff or a local group would be more manageable. This blends two great traditions within the Shire- public display of social inclusiveness and environmental enrichment.
Mayors for Marriage Equality
Currently, within the US, there exists a Mayors for the Freedom to Marry group (http://www.freedomtomarry.org), consisting of 315 mayors from 32 states. They have a Mayors for the Freedom to Marry statement, and a website with various resources and actions. How it evolves in Australia would be up to Mayors here, however it certainly could play a clear, concerted
Signed: Cr Simon Richardson/ Basil Cameron
March 14, 2013
February 13, 2013