Marriage equality motion fails in Latrobe City chambers

A Latrobe City motion to support marriage equality has failed after an emotional debate at last night’s council meeting.

With only six of the nine councillors in chambers at the time of the vote and only two in favour, the motion was not able to gain majority support.

Councillor Kellie O’Callaghan’s motion was supported only by Cr Graeme Middlemiss and opposed by Cr Peter Gibbons who argued for more community consultation.

Mayor Dale Harriman, and councillors Sandy Kam and Michael Rossiter abstained from the vote.

Cr Christine Sindt left the chamber for the vote, citing a conflict of interest in the matter for “legal reasons”.

It follows the councillor drawing public criticism for controversial comments made on Facebook about Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester declaring his support for same-sex marriage.

Crs Sharon Gibson and Darrell White were absent.

Cr O’Callaghan said calls for greater community consultation was an “excuse”, noting how many decisions had been made in the chamber without such consultation.

She said the debate had already taken place under the Latrobe City banner for months and councillors could have engaged with their community, but did not.

“My colleagues can stand on that platform and face the community tomorrow morning, then so be it,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

She added other Victorian councils, such as Geelong, had already shown their support for marriage equality.

Elevens speakers attended the meeting, six for the motion and five against.

Those for the motion called marriage equality a basic human right, while others said it was not in council’s role to comment on the issue and should focus on “rates, roads and rubbish”.

Gippsland Rainbow Collective secretary Jo Parker told the council her gay son had been beaten up three times and had left the Valley for Melbourne.

“He’s an Australian award-winning hairstylist and we’ve lost that talent, it’s sad,” Ms Parker said.

“That’s what fear can do, it can make you run.”

Fifteen year-old Moe resident Emma Wilkinson said while the motion might not influence the Federal Government to pass changes, it would send a strong message to all residents and show council’s commitment to social progress.

Both Cr Callaghan and Cr Harriman were tearful during the debate, speaking about their family.

Cr Callaghan said “judgement was wrong”, while Cr Harriman said his home was an “LGBTI (Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex) welcome zone”.

“I’ve brought up a son that has an understanding that even though he isn’t gay, that there’s nothing wrong with being gay,” Cr Harriman said.

“To me that’s more important than any vote I put up tonight.”