Port Stephens Council shies away from same sex marriage support to urge participation in postal survey

Port Stephens Council will urge its residents to participate in the federal government’s marriage equality survey but has stopped short of hitching its wagon to the ‘yes’ campaign.

Labor councillor Giacomo Arnott brought the matter before the council on Tuesday night but couldn’t muster the numbers.

“Port Stephens is an area that supports fairness, inclusion and equality,” he said.

“For people who are struggling to work out who they are, it would help if they knew we support them.”

Cr John Nell, a Labor member who has served numerous terms as an independent, didn’t support Cr Arnott’s motion.

“I’m happy for this to be considered but I would like to move an amendment that we [simply] encourage everyone in Port Stephens to participate in the same sex marriage postal survey.”

After Cr Arnott had couched the motion in tourism terms –  a potential wedding tourism boon –  the deputy mayor Chris Doohan didn’t entirely agree either.

But he was still willing to support it.

“This isn’t about selling Port Stephens for weddings it’s about doing the right thing,” Cr Doohan said.

“And I don’t ask that we paint our pedestrian crossings. This is about the fair thing to do.”

DIVIDED: Port Stephens deputy mayor Chris Doohan said it wasn't like Cr Giacomo Arnott was asking the council to paint its crossing in a rainbow. Digital artwork by Tracy Peters.

DIVIDED: Port Stephens deputy mayor Chris Doohan said it wasn't like Cr Giacomo Arnott was asking the council to paint its crossing in a rainbow. Digital artwork by Tracy Peters.

Cr Paul Le Mottee said he would support it, after being swayed only last weekend in discussion with young adults.

“Any doubts were quashed when 40, 19 year olds spoke about it at my home,” he said.

“They believe love is love but what really moved me was listening to a 19-year-old talking about it because it’s also about some really practical details like [estate matters] when a partner dies.”

Cr Smith, new to council like Cr Arnott, disagreed with the move.

“It’s an important issue but it’s a highly personal issue,” she said.

“I would be interest to know how many of those 19 year olds have taken the time to mail back the postal survey,” she said.

“All we can do is encourage everyone to follow the process.” 

Cr Ken Jordan was on the fence.

“I don’t mind if it’s the amendment or the motion and I’m saying that, as many will know, as a teacher at a Catholic school,” he said.

“When Pope Francis said ‘who am I to judge’ it was probably the best thing to happen within the church in years.”

Cr Steve Tucker said he didn’t want to see the motion watered down.

“All the amendment does is add more water to the ocean,” he said.

Crs Arnott, Doohan, Le Mottee and Tucker voted against the amendment.

It was carried by Crs Nell, Smith, Jordan, Jaimie Abbott, and the mayor Ryan Palmer.