Wagga councillors say equality is a local government issue

The same-sex marriage debate may not be a local government issue, but one Wagga councillor says equality is. 

Tim Koschel’s words follow a motion for Wagga City Council to support its LGBTI residents, presently caught in the middle of a national debate.  

It would not be the first local council in Australia to symbolically stand alongside its lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and trans residents. 

Wagga mother Kat van der Wijngaart drafted the motion in September, urging council to openly support marriage equality.

Councillor Dan Hayes said he would happily table the motion in the coming weeks. 

The announcement was met with a mixed response, as some city residents believed council should only focus on issues it was legislated to address.

But Councillor Koschel said its role extended beyond roads, rates and rubbish.

He said he backed Ms van der Wijngaart’s motion 100 per cent. 

“(Marriage equality) definitely isn’t a council issue,” Cr Koschel said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t show support for our ratepayers and residents.”

Cr Koschel said it was council’s role to show inclusion and to support fairness for all. 

“It is important as leaders, to show we’re happy to support any person at all,” he said. “We are all one community.”

Cr Koschel said the debate may be a state and federal government concern, but the proposal was about showing solidarity.

“We, as leaders, can show emotional support for lots of different things,” he said. “I don’t know if it will get up … personally, I do support it.”

Ms van der Wijngaart said backing the issues of its constituents was very much a part of local government’s role. 

“The main argument I’m hearing is same-sex marriage has nothing to do with council,” she said. “But it does.”

Ms van der Wijngaart said the role of councillors was outlined in the Local Government Act 1993 and on Wagga City’s website. 

“(The Act) sets out that councillors are to be leaders, representing the interests of all of their constituents,” Ms van der Wijngaart said. “(It says they are to) provide guidance to the community.”

She said, in addition to acting as leaders, councillors were “expected to be active and look to the future”, promoting the brand of Wagga Wagga as a “vibrant, stable, progressive and endearing place”.