A rainbow was projected on the Sydney Opera House to celebrate the success of the Yes vote for same-sex marriage. Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna

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BY ALEC SMART

Sydney City Council have made good on their promise to provide free weddings for 100 days to same-sex marriages if the national Same-Sex Marriage Plebiscite delivered a Yes result. The free use of City of Sydney venues will begin on 9 January next year.

On 23 October this year, City Councilor Linda Scott introduced a motion to Sydney City Council to provide city community venues and parks free for same-sex weddings for 100 days if the national plebiscite approved of same-sex marriages. The motion was approved with a majority vote.

On 15 November, the results of the $122 million national postal-vote revealed 61.6 per cent of Australians had voted ‘Yes’ to allow same-sex couples to marry.
As a result, the City Council has now allocated 100 days between 9 January and 18 April 2018 when fees for same-sex weddings will be waived to encourage gay and lesbian partners to tie the knot.

“We didn’t want the $122 million dollar postal survey,” Cr Scott said, “and it has been a bruising process for many. This is a chance to show the City’s LGBTQI community that they are respected and supported.
“I have now successfully ensured the City of Sydney will waive usage fees for our City’s venues, parks and community facilities for same-sex weddings.”

Despite an initial backlash to the Yes vote – there were threats of a legal amendment introduced by Senator James Paterson to sabotage the introduction of a Same-Sex Marriage Bill, and in Sydney two ‘gay-friendly’ wall murals in the inner-west were vandalized – on 7 December the Australian Parliament approved legislation that removed marriage discrimination. The legislation affords same-sex couples the same right to marry and share property as heterosexuals.

Curiously, Councillor Christine Forster, the sister of former Prime Minister Tony Abbot, although a supporter of same-sex marriage, voted against the City providing free weddings for same-sex couples. This despite being in a lesbian relationship herself.
“I did not support the proposal to offer free venue hire to same-sex couples only, and sought to amend the motion to include ALL couples who wish to marry during the period,” she said. “When that amendment was defeated, I voted against the motion on the basis that it flies against what we have been fighting for, which is equal rights for all, not special rights for any particular group. The equality campaign has been all about making marriage more inclusive, not exclusive.”

However, Lord Mayor Clover Moore wholeheartedly approved of supporting same-sex unions. At a Vote Yes event prior to the result of the national plebiscite she declared, “The LGBTIQ community is at risk of discrimination and social isolation with current public debate on marriage equality.
“The City supports the aspirations of same-sex couples to have their commitment to each other recognised and valued.”

Last Friday evening, 8 December, The sails of the Sydney Opera House were illuminated to mark the passing of marriage equality into law in Australia. The main sails were lit up pink on the western side facing the Harbour Bridge whilst the Bennelong sails, the smaller pair at the rear nearest the Botanic Gardens, were covered in a shimmering rainbow.