Ballarat City Council has voted against raising the rainbow flag, despite reaffirming its support for marriage equality at an ordinary general meeting on Wednesday night.
An acrimonious debate was hosted in front of a packed gallery that included large numbers of LGBTQI supporters, and an equal number of opponents.
Despite the decision, council did vote to continue its support for same-sex marriage.
Cr Belinda Coates submitted a motion of notice to have the flag raised after it was taken down following questions over council’s flag policy at a September 13 meeting.
In a divisive debate, council was split 4-4, with Cr Des Hudson absent from the meeting.
The even split saw mayor Samantha McIntosh using her deciding vote to knock back the motion.
Crs Jim Rinaldi, Ben Taylor and Grant Tillett also voted against it, while Crs Amy Johnson, Belinda Coates, Daniel Moloney and Mark Harris voted in favour.
Cr Belinda Coates said councillors who voted to support marriage equality in July had to step up to continue that support.
“Our role as leaders is to advocate for the principles and values we as a council have agreed on,” she said.
“We agree we are an inclusive council who promote human rights, so while we recognise the right to religious freedom and support, we recognise our communities are increasingly secular.”
Despite voting against raising the flag, council once again voted in support of marriage equality.
There were verbal arguments between opponents of same-sex marriage and supporters in the public gallery during debate on the issue.
Marriage equality opponents also held their own flag. Cr McIntosh said the motion to support same-sex marriage was in line with council’s previous decision.
“I find it offensive to suggest there is a backflip,” she said.
“I have had threats come through a 1.30am on this particular debate – I am proud of the work we have been doing in support of our LGBTQI community.”
Council first voted to support same-sex marriage in July, while a motion was also passed in 2014.
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