Newcastle City Council re-affirms support for marriage equality

Newcastle lord mayor Cr Nuatali Nelmes. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Newcastle lord mayor Cr Nuatali Nelmes. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The new-look Newcastle City Council has affirmed its support for marriage equality, as one of its first acts.

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes raised the issue on Tuesday night, during the first council meeting since the election, and called on her fellow councillors to show leadership on the issue.

It means council will host a community event in support of the ‘yes’ marriage equality survey vote, show support for the ‘yes’ vote on council’s website and social media platforms, erect banners and fly the rainbow flag over city hall. 

It also means the council will write to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to make its position clear.

Cr Nelmes told the meeting that her lord mayoral minute re-affirmed council’s 2015 commitment to support marriage equality.

“This is about showing members of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex or queer [LGBTIQ] community that our city stands beside them in supporting their right to marry the person they love,” she said.

Two of Cr Nelmes’ Labor colleagues on council – Cr Declan Clausen and Cr Emma White – are openly gay. 

Cr Clausen said it was a chance for Newcastle council “to be on the right side of history”. He compared the stance to former lord mayor Joy Cummings’ decision to fly the Aboriginal flag at city hall in the 1970s.

“It would be very disappointing if councillors decided to vote against such an important piece of leadership,” he said.

Only Crs Allan Robinson, John Church and Brad Luke voted against motion.

Cr Luke said he supported marriage equality, but did not believe it was council’s place to enter a debate on a federal issue.

Cr Church said he felt he did not have enough time to “consider and consult” on the motion before being asked to vote on it.

But Cr Nelmes said the issue was “a no brainer” and should not have been subject to a postal vote.

“It is absolutely up to a council … to show leadership on these community issues,” she said. “People have elected us to make decisions.”

It was one of six items on Tuesday’s short meeting agenda, which also included a motion for council to start recruiting a permanent chief executive officer.

Cr Nelmes, her Labor colleagues Cr Jason Dunn and Cr Carol Duncan, and Greens representative Cr John MacKenzie will sit on the recruitment panel.

Cr Andrea Rufo called for fellow independent Allan Robinson to be added to the panel, but the bloc of Labor and Greens councillors voted against the move.

The panel is expected to shortlist chief executive officer candidates by November 22.