WAGGA mayor Rod Kendall has thrown his support behind same-sex marriage, declaring the region is ready for change.
Mr Kendall - speaking as a private citizen and not as mayor of the city – has weighed in on the public debate that came to a head this week when prime minister Tony Abbott killed off a backbench push to legislate same-sex marriage.
“It should have been a free vote,” Mr Kendall said.
“I don’t think it does our community any good to have it hanging in the background.
“(People) just don’t know why it’s still an issue, given there is legal gay unions, we do have anti-discrimination acts and we do have equal rights laws.”
Riverina MP Michael McCormack publicly declared the Riverina, anecdotally, would not be willing to amend the Marriage Act in the wake of Mr Abbott flagging a plebiscite on the matter.
But Mr Kendall believes the people of Wagga would vote in favour of same-sex marriage if it were to go ahead.
“As a society, this shouldn’t be an issue,” he said.
“People I speak to, in the vast majority, can’t believe why this is still an issue, given gay relationships aren’t condemned by law.
“It would just seem to be a natural expectation (that it is legalised).”
Mr Kendall stressed the matter was not a local government issue or a resolution of council, but he believed everyone was entitled to the same right to live a full and happy life married to the person of their choosing.
He argued it should be a given right and considered the views of Mr Abbott and Mr McCormack to be wrong.
“Everybody should be able to have their personal point of view without that being persecuted,” he said.
“Given where this debate’s gone, I’m not optimistic of anything and that’s one of the frustrations.”
Cr Kendall said prohibiting same-sex marriage denied couples the same legal rights of conventional marriage if they were to separate.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) vice president Sarah Adcock said Mr Kendall’s support was a positive step forward for the community.
“It goes to show Australia and Wagga is ready for this,” Ms Adcock said.
“We’re past ready. It is starting to suck oxygen from other important issues.”
A poll on the Advertiser’s website garnered close to 3000 votes, with 56 per cent of respondents supporting gay marriage at the time of publication.
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