Gay couples – but not straight ones – will be able to marry for free in some of the City of Sydney’s most prominent buildings and parks, in a move that will outrage the progressive council’s conservative critics.
A motion passed on Monday night will allow same-sex couples to hire community facilities, halls and parks for free for 100 days if same-sex marriage is legalised following the postal survey.
The offer will only be available for same-sex weddings, but existing bookings for straight couples will not be cancelled or moved to accommodate the expected influx.
Gay couples will still need to pick up the tab for audiovisual services, catering and security, but will be able to hire facilities such as Paddington Town Hall free of charge.
It follows the City of Sydney’s decision to support the “yes” campaign with in-kind gifts worth about $100,000 including free office space, mailouts and erection of banners.
Labor councillor Linda Scott moved the motion, which was amended and supported by Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s team, giving it enough votes to pass.
However, Liberal councillor Christine Forster – who is gay and has taken a leading role in the “yes” campaign – voted against the motion after unsuccessfully trying to make it apply to straight couples as well.
“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,” she said.
“It’s also been about making marriage inclusive, not exclusive, and this motion flies in the face of that.”
Clr Scott said it was not discrimination to limit the waiver to same-sex weddings because “this community has suffered significant discrimination and many have felt hurt during the campaign”.
“This is a practical way for the council to combat discrimination,” she told Fairfax Media.
The move mirrors one already taken by the Inner West Council under newly-elected Labor mayor Darcy Byrne, which attracted criticism from conservative commentators including Andrew Bolt.
“Wasn’t this meant to be about equality?” Bolt asked. “Animal Farm all over again.”
Savings for gay couples will be significant. The crown jewel of the council’s buildings, Sydney Town Hall, will also be made available for a mass same-sex wedding ceremony if the law is changed.
The postal survey concludes on November 7, with a result to be announced on November 15. If the “yes” vote is successful, the Turnbull government will move to legislate before the end of the parliamentary year on December 7.
That opens the possibility of same-sex weddings being held before Christmas, although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that cannot be guaranteed.