Larger / SmallerNight Mode Dubbo’s LGBTI campaigner wants council to listen

June 18, 2015, 4:30 a.m.

DUBBO’S Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community may march on city hall out of frustration at being “socially excluded”.

LGBTI community spokesman Nicholas Steepe is rallying the troops and their “straight allies” after five out of 11 Dubbo city councillors ignored his request to speak with them about marriage equality.

Mr Steepe is in the “process of applying to address” the council at one of its two meetings this month.

“I am going to address the councillors on the social exclusion of the LGBTI community as evidenced in their social plan and lack of support for marriage equality,” he said.

“I am inviting everyone who is concerned about social inclusion for the LGBTI community or marriage equality to come along to the meeting and show the council that there is community support around it.” Marriage equality hit the headlines in Dubbo after Mathew Dickerson called it “almost irrelevant” because no one had raised the issue with him in his capacity as mayor.

Members of the LGBTI community and their heterosexual friends responded with pleas for the council to join a community-driven and national campaign aimed at influencing the federal government to amend the 1961 Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage.

The pleas have largely but not completely gone unheard.

Not all of the six councillors who met with Mr Steepe opposed marriage equality and at a May council meeting Cr Tina Reynolds rejected the mayor’s public assertion that the council should focus on issues it could control.

She used the battle to save Playmates Cottage as an example of the council stepping beyond perceived boundaries.

“I do not have an issue with this coming to council at all,” she said of marriage equality.

On Wednesday Mr Steepe said the council, as the “closest level of government to the community”, was responsible for making people feel they were “accepted in this town and had a right to be here”.

He said the council’s social plan was a “lengthy document” that used “offensive and discriminatory ” language such as “non-heterosexual” in its brief reference to same-sex attraction.

“It excludes gender identity which is quite prominent in Dubbo,” Mr Steepe said.

“In essence the plan excludes the whole LGBTI community. They need to update that and promote social inclusion which includes marriage equality.”

Mr Steepe said the council held the power to over time help reduce elevated levels of suicide and mental health problems among LGBTI people, resulting from discrimination and exclusion.

Dubbo mother Libby McMahon is set to join Mr Steepe in addressing the council.

“As the mother of a gay child I think that it’s very important that these children and adults have a voice and they deserve equal rights,” she told the Daily Liberal.

Originally published as PLEA’S IGNORED: Dubbo’s LGBTI campaigner wants council to listen by the Daily Liberal.

Author: Garry Burns

Gary Burns is an Australian anti-discrimination campaigner. He successfully tested the homosexual vilification provisions of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 with a complaint of personal homosexual vilification against broadcaster John Laws and Sydney radio station 2UE that concluded in his favour in 2002.[1] Burns went on to front public interest cases against high profile figures and media establishments for unlawful homosexual vilification.

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