Same-sex marriage was given in-principle support last night by Lismore City Council, which promised to consider same-sex couples in its future policy and protocol development.
Cr Ray Houston proposed the motion, which was passed seven votes to four, based on the high population of same-sex couples in the Lismore area.
‘This notice of motion is to address what can only be described as a civil rights issue,’ Cr Houston said.
‘If there had not been such a concerted effort nationally and internationally to address it, then perhaps it could have been explained as an oversight.
‘However, it is much more than that; it is a blatant denial of the right to marry and results in the marginalisation of same-sex-attracted people.’
A move to throw out the motion based on its being outside the council’s area of business was ruled out of order by Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, who said councils do occasionally debate important issues outside their responsibility.
‘It was a really impassioned, free-flowing debate, which talked about people’s deepest feelings and religious connections,’ Cr Dowell said.
‘I felt it was a very moving debate. I was quite overcome at some stages though I didn’t show it,’ she said.
‘It’s a symbolic gesture really, saying we’re supporting same-sex marriage. We can’t change the law but I think it’s a message that we send to our GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and intersex) community to say that we share your desire for the same rights in marriage that heterosexual partners have.
‘We have a very large population of GLBTI people and we see lots of long-term committed relationships and we know they feel disadvantaged by not having the ability to marry and provide that legal framework, particularly when children are involved, not just in life, but in death too.’
Lismore City Council’s community services coordinator Annie McWilliam stated in the business papers that the council’s charter required it to exercise ‘its function in a manner that is consistent with and promotes social justice principles of equity, access, participation and rights’ of all community members.
‘The wellbeing of same-sex couples and their families are currently both considered and protected in the development and review of policies and protocols,’ Ms McWilliam said.
‘As these processes do not make any additional financial demands of Council and, as Council has strong and ongoing working relationships with both ACON and the gay, lesbian and transgender community, current practices will continue.’