A Latrobe City councillor believes the majority of the community supports marriage equality, despite a failed motion in chambers.
Councillor Kellie O’Callaghan put forward a motion on Monday night that “council publicly supports marriage equality, irrespective of sex or gender identity”.
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.
Eleven 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 council’s role to comment on the issue and it should focus on “rates, roads and rubbish”.
“I’m sure that more community leaders will speak openly for their support and will encourage others to do the same,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
In response to social media comments and those saying Cr O’Callaghan had “no right to bring this to council chamber”, the councillor offered she would always listen and respect a different view.
“I have walked away from tonight’s meeting feeling more empowered to offer my individual support to marriage equality and to the members of our local community who seek it,” she said.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester – the first Nationals politician to indicate he would vote ‘yes’ if a cross party bill came before Parliament – said there was nothing unusual about local councils proposing a motion on issues relating to state and federal government policies.
“I often receive correspondence from Gippsland councils on a range of federal issues,” Mr Chester said.
“I’m also not surprised that many Latrobe City ratepayers also took the opportunity to express their opinions ‘for’ and ‘against’ same-sex marriage.
“From my perspective, I will continue to participate in a constructive, moderate and respectful debate on the issue,” he said.
Cr Peter Gibbons was the only councillor to vote against the motion, arguing for more community consultation.
Mayor Dale Harriman, who abstained from the vote alongside councillors Sandy Kam and Michael Rossiter, said he was happy that it was a respectful discussion.
During the debate, he tearfully spoke about his own family, calling his home 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.”