On Monday night Sydney passed a motion to give same-sex couples free weddings in public buildings and parks for 100 days should Australia pass marriage equality.
City officials have already endorsed the “Yes” campaign for same-sex marriage, offering free office space, advertising, and about $100,000 in funding. A final tally for the national survey on same-sex marriage vote is expected November 15.
Of course the survey isn’t binding: Parliament would still have to pass equal-marriage legislation. But if and when that happens, the city has promised to offer free wedding venues exclusively to same-sex couples. (Weddings already on the books for straight couples won’t be canceled or moved, though.) The offer is a large-scale version of one made last month by Darcy Byrne, mayor of Sydney’s Inner West area, who promised free use of public facilities if same-sex marriage is legalized.
Couples will still have to cover the cost of outfits, catering, minister and the like—only the rental of city venues is free, but that includes lavish historic landmarks like Paddington Town Hall.
A mass same-sex wedding is also being tentatively planned for Sydney Town Hall.
Labor councillor Linda Scott, who introduced the motion, said it’s a gesture of goodwill towards gay people because “this community has suffered significant discrimination and many have felt hurt during the campaign.”
Opponents of marriage equality have used misinformation and slurs to scare people into voting “No” in the survey. In Melbourne, a poster showed men gripping rainbow belts over a scared child, with the tagline “Stop the fags.” Another poster claimed gays and lesbians were “40% of child predators.” The rhetoric has become so hateful, pediatricians have even warned that it’s harming the kids of same-sex couples.
Still, Sydney’s offer has elicited criticism from some LGBT advocates.
“This has been a fight for equality before the law and it’s my belief that we can’t ask for equality for ourselves and then deny it to others,” out councillor Christine Forster, a vocal advocate of the “Yes” campaign, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It’s also been about making marriage inclusive not exclusive, and this motion flies in the face of that,” she added.
Forster’s brother is former prime minister Tony Abbott, a most prominent voice against equal marriage in Australia. (Abbott went to far as to suggest it would be “best” if Forster’s children were raised by a straight couple instead.
Marriage equality advocates are becoming increasingly creative in their efforts to combat all the hate: On Monday, some 40 dancers performed choreographed dances to pop songs in a pro-marriage equality flash mob in Melbourne’s Federation Square.
“For many volunteers I have spoken to this performance was much more than just a dance,” Tim Little, who organized the flash mob, told Gay Star News. “It was a feeling of belonging and being part of something that made them proud. Many of [them] had told me of hard times, some relating to marriage equality, but being part of this project really livened their spirit and gave them a sense of purpose and of belonging.”