On 27th June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage across all 50 states. The decision to legalise gay marriage nationwide, set off jubilation and tearful embraces across the country, and the world, including an explosion of tweets and hashtags such as #LoveWins, #LoveIsLove and #MarriageEquality. You may have noticed rainbow-filtered profile photos in your Facebook news feed, a symbolic representation of users in support of the decision.
Following this, Councils throughout South Australia were asked to fly the rainbow flag during the two-week Feast Festival in November, Adelaide’s lesbian and gay culture festival, to celebrate diversity and equality.
After feeling ‘dragged into’ a debate over whether the Copper Coast Council should fly the flag during the festival, Peter Harder, resigned from his role as council administrative head on the 1st of July.
The council votes were in favour of flying the flag, but resolved that Mr Harder would have discretion on the specific location. To the councilors’ surprise, Mr Harder put forward his resignation after the discussion.
“As a leader of the council I have been dragged into a decision that I can’t support,” he told The Advertiser. “I have been brought into the debate that conflicts with my personal view, and therefore my position is untenable. I do believe that marriage is between a man and woman. That is my belief. I have got nothing against gays and lesbians. I would have them to my house. But I have been dragged into a position to support that lifestyle.”
Mr. Harder had signed on for a five-year contract just six months ago, with an annual salary of $200,000 a year, and is required to provide at least three month’s notice. While the council’s mayor, Paul Thomas, is yet to accept his resignation and said he was disappointed, he admitted the flag issue had provoked “lots of debate”.
The council and Mr. Harder will now enter mediation in an attempt to resolve the situation before considering his resignation, as the council does not want to lose him. They acknowledge that Mr. Harder has been through a difficult time over the past few months.
The Marion Council, on the other hand, pushed forward with a recommendation to fly the rainbow flag permanently instead of just during the November festival. The recommendation came from Cr Tim Pfeiffer, who stated, “For me, it was about making sure acceptance for everyone is just business as usual for us in our community. We’re not doing it for publicity. We’re doing it because we want people to know that our community is one of equality, love and acceptance.”
Feast board chair Joshua Rayner said Marion’s move was “monumental” in promoting greater social wellbeing for the LGBTIQ community.