Latrobe City Council to debate marriage equality

Discussion about same-sex marriage will be brought into the Latrobe City Council chamber on Monday night, when Cr Kellie O’Callaghan moves a motion to publicly support marriage equality.

Cr O’Callaghan plans to move the motion that “council publicly supports marriage equality, irrespective of sex or gender identity”.

“The campaign for marriage equality is important because the current marriage laws systematically discriminate against particular people in our society,” Cr O’Callaghan told The Express.

“This notice of motion encourages council to take a step forward in supporting the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.”

When asked why she felt it was appropriate for council to debate the matter, when a decision on marriage equality would fall to the Federal Government, Cr O’Callaghan said council often considered whether or not it supported issues that sat in the domain of state or federal governments.

“In representing the views of a local community, Local Government has a role in not only considering matters, but providing a fair, reasonable and equitable space for councillors to debate issues of community significance,” she said.

Cr O’Callaghan said there had already been significant commentary in the public domain regarding marriage equality.

In a statement which may be a reference to comments by her colleague Cr Christine Sindt, Cr O’Callaghan said “we have also seen commentary, which intended or otherwise, carries the Latrobe City name”.

“Much of this commentary has been negative and on occasion has not been respectful,” she said.

Cr Sindt’s comments on gay marriage have drawn public criticism, in particular, a post on her official councillor Facebook page which included a comment about Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester after he declared his support for same-sex marriage.

The post cannot be reported for legal reasons. A lawyer for Mr Chester sent Cr Sindt a letter regarding the post. Cr Sindt has previously defended the comments, saying she was putting forward her opinion.

Sydney-based anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns has lodged a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales over the 11 June post, alleging it incited hatred against homosexual men.

Cr O’Callaghan said she encouraged her colleagues to “join in a respectful discussion regarding this important issue, and to hear first-hand from our community what they feel about marriage equality and the role that council take regarding recognition, advocacy and respectful consideration of equality”.

“I appreciate everyone is entitled to an opinion on marriage equality and many other issues which challenge tradition or systems in society,” she said.

“However, in arguing the concept, structure and legal parameters around marriage equality, we must remember there are good people at the centre of these discussions, our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends and work mates.”

Cr Sindt declined to comment.