Council’s support of ‘Yes’ vote divides community
TWEED Shire Council’s decision to publicly support the same-sex marriage campaign is splitting the community, with many questioning whether local government has the right to get involved in the debate.
During Wednesday’s Extraordinary Meeting, the council voted 4:2 to reject a rescission motion, submitted by councillors Warren Polglase, James Owen and Pryce Allsop last week.
This was an attempt to block the council’s original decision to publicly support same-sex marriage, raise the rainbow flag, a well-known symbol of the LGBTIQ community, outside of the Murwillumbah and Tweed chambers and hold a council-led forum promoting the ‘Yes’ vote.
Murwillumbah’s Presbyterian Church minister Chris Lindsay said on Wednesday he believed council was acting outside of its jurisdiction.
“I’d be happier if the original motion had been to acknowledge the right for each individual to participate in the plebiscite,” Mr Lindsay said.
“I think we should be endorsing and encouraging everybody to be active in their civic duty, but not be partisan in terms of which decision you should make.”
But marriage equality campaigner Peter Waters said the council had a responsibility to show its support for the LGBTIQ community.
“I appreciate, firstly, that a vote to rescind is not a vote against marriage equality, but council is more than about fixing potholes and delivering sewerage and water,” Mr Waters said.
Tweed resident Cherilyn Evans said she believed councillors were overreaching in their role.
“Council is not the moral arbiter of this region,” Ms Evans said.
“The intent is clearly divisive, it favours one community over another.
“It favours one set of values over the other and before the council declares who we are as a community, we should ask the community.”
Cr Polglase said the community had the right to vote however they wanted, but he thought the council shouldn’t get involved.
“This council has been pushing for a greater community engagement but on this issue it hasn’t happened,” he said.
“We are responsible to be unbiased in our considerations and to listen to all sides of the debate.”
Cr Owen agreed there had been no consideration of the community’s varied views.
“The number of calls and emails I’ve had, even from people who are voting yes in the plebiscite, are saying they are voting yes but this isn’t an issue for local government,” Cr Owen said.
Mayor Katie Milne said the council had a responsibility to advocate on behalf of the community.
“This is a really old fashioned notion that we should just stick to roads, rates and rubbish,” she said.
“We actually have a clear local government charter to show leadership in our community and I take that very seriously.”
Cr Allsop was absent from Wednesday’s meeting.