Marriage equality push at Bayswater

Update: The motion narrowly passed with Crs Ehrhardt, Dan Bull, Stephanie Coates, Barry McKenna, and John Rifici supporting it, with no-votes from Chris Cornish, Brent Fleeton, Sally Palmer and Michelle Sutherland.

BAYSWATER councillor Catherine Ehrhardt wants her colleagues to “publicly support marriage equality irrespective of sex or gender identity”

She’s tabled a motion calling for the city to “recognise that civil marriage makes a positive contribution to families and communities” and that they “acknowledge that many people in the municipality are disadvantaged by the current law and social exclusion.”

Cr Ehrhardt also wants the city to write to all WA MPs, senators and the prime minister, asking that a parliamentary conscience vote to change the Marriage Act be held.

“The passing of actual legislation for marriage equality is a federal issue, no bones about it, but the responsibility for lobbying and support needed to make that happen belongs to all of us, especially local government,” Cr Ehrhardt told the Voice.

• Bayswater Cr Catherine Ehrhardt.

“Shortly after being elected I had members of the community approach me including people from Marriage Equality Australia.

“There’s so many people in my community affected by this, and it’s beyond a joke that the federal government hasn’t done anything.

“What I’m trying to do is encourage a respectful debate and free vote, because it’s the least that we can do for our residents and ratepayers.”

But ahead of the vote, Cr Brent Fleeton put out a statement on Facebook saying the motion is “so far outside the realm of what a local government is in place to deal with.”

“It’s not relevant if you agree with same-sex marriage or not, the question my colleagues need to figure out is: what does our local council exist for?

“I don’t believe we are here to collect rates (which pay for our salary and costs for running these meetings) to debate federal government issues.

“We are here for the basics: roads, rubbish, local parks and gardens.”

Cr Fleeton, a Liberal party staffer, says “if this trend continues I might get in on the action and move a motion soon to ask my colleagues to endorse the findings from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, or to ask for their support to declare that Bayswater council formally recognises the State of Israel has the right to exist”.

Cr Ehrhardt says local government does have a role to play in leadership on these issues: “In November last year we wrote to WALGA supporting a state-wide ban on plastic bags.”

“In 2015 we declared ourselves a refugee friendly zone.

“If we can do that for plastic bags and refugees, why can’t we stand up for marriage equality on behalf of our residents and ratepayers?”

The vote was to take place at the Bayswater council meeting on Wednesday night after the Voice went to print.

Check online at http://www.perthvoiceinteractive.com for the outcome.

Fremantle council was also due to vote on almost exactly the same motion on the same night.

by DAVID BELL

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