I have struggled for almost six weeks with this motion since Cr. Fergeus first flagged it on Twitter. I have lost quite a bit of sleep over the motion as it originally forced me choose between two things that I hold very dear; my values and my principles.
I am a very strong believer in marriage equality and think that members of the LGBTIQ community deserve to access fundamental human rights and privileges that are afforded to those outside their community. To me, marriage equality rates on par with gender equality, racial equality and religious equality; there is no discernible difference between any of these in my view. I have a number of close friends that are gay and believe that they should have the right to get married to the person they love, just as I have been lucky enough to have done.
However, regardless of my personal beliefs on marriage equality, I have always held great disdain for politicians that seek to muddy the waters between what are Local, State and Federal Government issues and encourage confusion amongst voters to further their own political agendas. These actions create angst amongst the large portion of the community that are either not politically inclined, or are politically uneducated. As politicians, we have a duty to educate the Community on the structure of our three-tiered system of Government, not to confuse them any further for our own personal gains. In the last few months, we have had motions come before Council on fossil fuels, asylum seekers and now marriage equality. I hope that we will not be asked to deal with Japanese whaling in the South Pacific next month.
During the election campaign, a very clear message was delivered to me by the people that I met, that they are sick of party politics influencing and infiltrating Council. They bemoaned the loss of local Government being about local issues and the local community. A comment that was posted recently on a Leader article online I believe sums up my view point perfectly. “It is insane that State/Federal political affiliations play such a pronounced role in Monash Council. If my local council is divided, I want it to be because of a contentious local issue, not because Andrews and Guy are at loggerheads on an infrastructure project in Gippsland or some other completely irrelevant-to-Monash issue. I want my Councillors arguing over rates, zonings, plans, events. I want them agreeing most of the time, and disagreeing only when they genuinely disagree on a local matter”
There is a strong sentiment in the Community for marriage equality; however there is also a strong sentiment against marriage equality. As Councillors, we were elected to represent the entire Community, not just those parts of the Community with which we happen to personally agree with. While there will naturally be times where we are forced to make decisions which are unpopular, or to choose one side over another, I struggle to find justifications as to why we would seek to inflame existing tensions or to further divide our Community based on an issue in which we have absolutely no jurisdiction or control, or, more importantly, where the issue has absolutely no extra particular association or relevance to Monash than to any other part of Australia.
All of that being said, I would like to thank Cr Fergeus for working extensively with myself and other Councillors over the past few weeks to address concerns that we had with the original, and subsequent reiterations of the motion. The original motion was worded in a way that would have resolved in Monash Council forming an official position on marriage equality, and included writing to the Attorney General of Australia demanding changes to the Marriage Act. Through consultation with myself, and other Councillors, Cr Fergeus opted to reword the motion in to a way that was palatable to the majority, and I thank him for doing so. The motion that is now before Council is one that focuses on supporting Monash residents and employees, and I am reluctantly willing to support this wording, as I feel that it does not prejudice my values or principles.