Darebin Council in Melbourne’s north is attempting to take heavy-handed action to silence ‘No’ proponents on the issue of marriage equality.
Independent councillor Susan Rennie and her colleagues are set to vote on an emergency motion next week to ban ‘No’ campaigners from using council facilities.
In an interview with Neil Mitchell on 3AW last Monday Cr Rennie said: “We won’t allow council spaces to be used by groups campaigning against marriage equality.”
“We will make those spaces available to local LGBTIQ organisations so that they can organise activities that support the community and marriage equality,” Cr Rennie said.
Darebin Council is offering free venue hire for locations including Northcote Town Hall and Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre for ‘Yes’ campaigners.
Venue hire rates in Darebin Council vary, but can be up to $2000 per day for some locations.
An online petition seeking to counter Darebin Council’s proposal has achieved more than 2,000 digital signatures so far.
The Good Governance Charter of the Darebin Council is comprised of six principles, one of which is equity and inclusion.
In endeavouring to achieve equity and inclusion, the council’s charter proposes the council is “responsive to and inclusive of Darebin’s diverse community needs and aspirations.”
The council’s services and resources are also said to be “equitably distributed”.
Cr Rennie and her counterparts are choosing when and how to invoke their charter and this is to the detriment of the marriage equality debate.
The Darebin Council is attempting to censor the ‘No’ campaigners, but has little justification to do so.
Cr Rennie told Neil Mitchell that she wrote to local church groups to outline the “potentially harmful impacts of campaigning against marriage equality.”
She went on to make unsubstantiated claims that she has seen no evidence that ‘No’ supporters of the marriage equality campaign will do so with decency.
Neil Mitchell then asked, “have your local churches been indecent in their campaign?”
“No, not at all. They’ve actually been quite silent and we’re grateful for that,” Cr Rennie said.
Regardless of individual council views on marriage in Australia, in seeking to achieve equality, Darebin Council is acting in a divisive, unfair and ironically inequitable manner.
Robert Gibson, a member of the gay community who works in the City of Yarra has called the intentions of the Darebin Council as “a travesty of democracy”.
“They are showing a lack of tolerance. Tolerance is the key. That is what my community wants,” Mr Gibson said.
The Darebin Council’s stance aligns with recent hatred and vitriol received by prominent Australian people and corporations, who are ‘No’ campaigners.
Australian tennis champion Margaret Court has experienced the intolerance of the gay marriage movement.
Ms Court, a Grand Slam champion turned Christian pastor, famously voiced her opinions against gay marriage earlier this year when she said that gay people were “aggressively demanding marriage rights that are not theirs to take”.
She openly criticised Qantas, saying that she will avoid flying with the Australian airline due to its public support for gay marriage.
The hysteria around Ms Court’s statements prompted outrage, with calls for Melbourne Park Precinct to change the name of Margaret Court Arena.
Similarly, there have been attempts to trash the reputation of the beer company Coopers Brewery, because its product appeared in a short Bible Society video debate about gay marriage between Liberal MPs Tim Wilson and Andrew Hastie.
Social media went into a frenzy and accused Coopers of being a catalyst for homophobia by letting its product feature in a debate about gay marriage between two politicians.
In a knee-jerk reaction, instigated by the gay community, bars and restaurants began to throw out all of their Coopers stock, boycotting the South Australian brewer.
The high-profile examples of Ms Court and Coopers Brewery demonstrate the issue of intolerance against those who are opposed to same-sex marriage.
Similarly, Darebin Council has demonstrated its double-standard in its advocacy for a diversity of community views this week by ostracising a subsection of their community from engaging in democratic, fair and peaceful campaigning.
“Excluding an argument categorically is dangerous and completely nullifies the position of the council,” Mr Gibson said.
Darebin Council’s meeting to discuss their proposals will be held on Monday 21st of August at 6 pm. The meeting is being held at the Darebin Civic Centre 350 High Street, Preston, Victoria 3072.
Written by Nicholas Nakos and Deniz Karaman.