Bendigo council allows flag to be flown in support of the LGBTIQ community

The City of Greater Bendigo has allowed a community group to fly a rainbow flag in support of the LGBTIQ community on Friday, but is no closer to having a formal stance on marriage equality.

The flag, presented to Bendigo councillors at a council meeting last week, will be raised next to Bendigo town hall in the civic gardens as part of a Believe in Bendigo picnic, which is a celebration of diversity in the region.

“It’s fantastic that we’re going to be able to fly the flag in what has been a difficult time for the LGBTIQ community because of the (same-sex marriage) postal survey,” Bendigo Says Yes co-chair Harry Mc Anulty said.

Mr Mc Anulty said the local LGBTIQ community was pleased council had listened to feedback. 

“They (councillors) have shown great leadership on this issue,” he said.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said: “Celebrating diversity is what the picnic is all about, so we thought it was appropriate to fly the (rainbow) flag.”

Cr O’Rourke said council donated the rainbow flag it received at last week’s meeting to be flown at the  event, which she added was a community event not run by council.

“Council has not changed its position on marriage equality or made a formal decision to fly the rainbow flag. The flag will be flown for one day and does not replace flying any other flag. It is not an official flag raising,” she said.

The move comes a week after council provided its first public statement regarding same-sex marriage. 

In a pre-prepared statement, mayor Margaret O’Rourke said: “To our gay, lesbian, bi-sexual transsexual, intersex and queer residents, please know your council supports your right to seek marriage equality and have the same respect, legal recognition and next of kin status as heterosexual couples.”

“Changing the definition of marriage is a federal government responsibility – local government has no legislative powers to amend the marriage act. 

“Council will continue to support the rights of all residents through the Bendigo human rights charter.”

Councillors were also asked by a member of the public gallery their personal views on same-sex marriage amid the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite.

Crs James Williams, Jennifer Alden, Matt Emond, Rod Fyffe, Margaret O’Rourke and Yvonne Wrigglesworth said ‘yes’, while George Flack Andrea Metcalf reserved their right to respond. 

Cr Julie Hoskin said at the time: “I will be supporting traditional marriage.”

Macedon Ranges Shire Council recently flew a rainbow flag at its Gisborne and Kyneton council offices in support of the LGBTIQ community, while Mount Alexander councillors voted against the idea at a council meeting this month.

More recently, Ballarat councillors voted against flying the rainbow flag over a council building at a meeting on Wednesday. 

A rainbow flag was initially flown in Ballarat, then taken down due a council review into its flag pole’s policy.