By Bonny Burrows
Cardinia Shire Council has taken a public stand in support of marriage equality.
At the 20 March council meeting, councillors agreed to publicly support marriage for all, irrespective of sex or gender, and to make the shire an inclusive place for the LGBTI community.
The man behind the motion, councillor Michael Schilling said despite marriage being a federal issue, it was important council’s position was known.
“It’s really important with council being that third tier of government that we let our residents know we are supportive of everyone,” Cr Schilling said.
A healthcare worker by trade, Cr Schilling said he joined council to promote equality and increase health outcomes for residents.
He said it was well documented there were higher rates of suicide and poor health in the LGBTI community and this wasn’t acceptable.
“One of the biggest things I believe in is social inclusion and acceptance regardless where they are born, who they are, or who they love,” Cr Schilling said.
Cr Shilling’s motion had the backing of all councillors in attendance.
Port Ward representatives Ray Brown and Graeme Moore were absent from the meeting, while Central Ward’s Carol Ryan abstained, declaring a conflict of interest due to her work as a marriage celebrant.
Cr Colin Ross told council there would be “a lot of Christian people who will die in a ditch over this”; however, he supported it on the grounds of love.
“People are coming together for no other reason but love … and they shouldn’t feel like second rate citizens,” Cr Ross said.
Ranges Ward councillor Leticia Wilmot said there was overwhelming community support for marriage equality, and “a simple union doesn’t give them the same civil rights marriage does”.
“Australia is lagging behind on this. Twenty-one countries have marriage equality,” Cr Wilmot said.
Mayor Brett Owen said council’s role was to provide “accessible, equitable and inclusive services to all”, and this stance would go a long way in doing so.
Council will now write to local Federal Members of Parliament and the Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission advising them of its support.
Cr Schilling said he hoped other neighbouring councils would follow suit.
“We’re in no way leading the way on this, we’re simply catching up,” Cr Schilling said.
“But I do think they will stand up and take note,” Cr Schilling said.
Cardinia joins 39 other local councils that have publicly declared support for marriage equality.