Monash Council joins fight for marriage equality

Monash resident Khent Sotto is thrilled his local council supports his wish to marry a man. Picture: Laura Placella
Monash resident Khent Sotto is thrilled his local council supports his wish to marry a man. Picture: Laura Placella

By Laura Placella

Monash Council has become one of the first Melbourne municipalities to support marriage equality, after a landmark vote at their February council meeting.

The motion brought before council said it would “support residents and employees in advocating for marriage equality, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity”.

Monash Mayor Rebecca Paterson said the motion was of a “symbolic” nature.

“We want people to know that we believe in their right to live free of discrimination and prejudice,” said Cr Paterson.

Seven councillors voted in favour of the motion, while two voted against and another two abstained.

Josh Fergeus, Monash’s first ever Greens councillor, submitted the motion as a “statement of support” for those who identify as LGBTIQ.

“It’s made them feel more included and accepted by their community,” said Cr Fergeus.

The flying of the rainbow flag outside council offices on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is one of many changes the motion will trigger.

The motion also highlighted the presence Monash Council will have at LGBTIQ community events to come, such as Pride March and the Midsumma Festival.

“Research certainly shows that these sorts of actions have a positive impact on the mental health of those in LGBTIQ community,” said Cr Fergeus.

Beyond the intended changes, he said the motion has assisted in “growing a movement”.

The municipalities of Cardinia Shire and Frankston expressed their own support of marriage equality last week, who together with Monash represent approximately 450,000 residents.

However, this motion does not suggest Monash will write to Federal Members of Parliament asking them to prioritise a conscience vote on same-sex marriage.

Instead, Cr Fergeus said the motion functions to “place pressure” on both State and Federal Parliament.

“Research certainly shows that these sorts of actions have a positive impact on the mental health of those in LGBTIQ community,” said Cr Fergeus.

Monash resident Khent Sotto said the motion was cause for “celebration”.

“Gay people like me should have the same rights as straight people. I think that marriage is one of those rights,” said Mr Sotto.

Coming from a strict Catholic background, where he was taught that marriage was between man and woman, Mr Sotto now knows he can rely on Monash Council support where he might lack support elsewhere.

“We are still people. We deserve to be treated the way straight couples are,” said Mr Sotto.

“I think Monash understand that, and are making other councils understand that too.”

Same-sex marriage has been legalised in 29 countries around the globe, including USA and England, but Australia is yet to amend the Marriage Act.

A national ReachTel Poll, of 5000 residents from predominantly Coalition electorates, found that the majority would prefer Federal Parliament to vote on marriage equality sooner rather than later.