Catherine Ehrhardt on why local government should support marriage equality

Bayswater Councillor Catherine Ehrhardt has put forward a motion calling on the city to formally voice it’s support for marriage equality.

Speaking to OUTinPerth, Cr Ehrhardt explained why she believes it’s important to make a clear statement at a local government level.

Cr Ehrhardt said she’d been considering putting forward the motion since she was first elected

“We need to keep this issue on the radar and persuade the federal government to do something.”

Critics of marriage equality often argue that this issue is outside the purview of local government, but Cr Ehrhardt disagrees saying local government should represent the views of the people they represent.

“They can keep on banging on about it being a federal issue, and they’re completely right, it is as federal issue.

“However, it is a federal issue that affects local residents and rate payers.

“While we keep on hearing local government is all about roads, rates and rubbish, the way I see it is a very significant part of local government is also having that close connection with our community and advocating for, and on, their behalf.” Cr Ehrhardt said.

“This is an issue that affects a lot of my local residents and it is something that needs to be dealt with. If the federal government isn’t doing their job then it is up to local government and the state government to make sure that they do their job.”

Cr Ehrhardt’s proposal has already found some support among her colleagues. Councillor Dan Bull told OUTinPerth that the motion has his wholehearted support.

Deputy Mayor Stephanie Coates said she approaches every debate with an open mind and listens to the arguments put forward, before determining her vote, but at this stage she supports the motion.

A representative for Mayor Barry McKenna said it would inappropriate for the mayor to comment ahead of the debate.

Councillor Brent Fleeton has declared that he will not support the motion because it is not a local government issue.

When Bayswater resident, and long serving LGBT rights advocate Brian Greig, challenged Cr Fleeton on his views on Facebook, Cr Fleeton was adamant that he’d never support the motion.

Greig highlighted that LGBTI couples still face discrimination, especially as they get older and a symbolic statement from the local government authority would help bring about change in the federal arena.

Councillor Fleeton said he disagreed, and stated that he was confident that a bi-partisan bill would be introduced soon to federal parliament to address the issue of marriage equality.

“You’ll still be in the same position if we do this or don’t do this – I know the Federal Parliament will be progressing this issue soon, but the legislative agenda won’t be quickened by this attempt from a Councillor in a small council in Perth or Port Hedland, regardless of the good intentions.”

“A bipartisan SSM Bill will be introduced into the Federal Parliament this term. It will be passed this term. Passing this motion at Baysie won’t speed it up. Rejecting this motion won’t have any impact. It’s ridiculous to focus on symbolism rather than action resulting in a real outcome.”

In 2015 the Legislative Assembly of the State Parliament moved a motion calling on the Turnbull government to dump its plan for a plebiscite on marriage equality and address the issue via a free vote in federal parliament.

Premier Colin Barnett voiced his opposition to the plebiscite policy saying the federal parliament should take action.

“I am very much of the view that this is the jurisdiction of the commonwealth Parliament and that it is an issue on which members of the commonwealth Parliament should vote as, I would strongly recommend, a free vote. They should accept their responsibility and deal with the issue.” Premier Barnett said.

To date, only two Western Australian councils has passed similar motions, the City of Vincent and Town of Port Hedland.

Support from local councils has been much more forthcoming in other states. So far 44 councils have passed similar motions including the City of Sydney, City of Melbourne and City of Hobart.

The Bayswater Council Meeting is on Wednesday 26 April at 6:30pm, members of the public are welcome to attend. The council meetings are held in the Council Chambers, City of Bayswater Civic Centre at 61 Broun Avenue, Morley.

OUTinPerth has reached out to all elected members in Bayswater and asked them what their stance will be on the issue.

Graeme Watson

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