Coun­cil’s sup­port of ‘Yes’ vote di­vides com­mu­nity

Tweed Daily News - - NEWS - Ais­ling Bren­nan ais­ling.bren­nan@tweed­dai­

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.

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