A former Shepparton man is calling on Greater Shepparton City Council to follow the lead of four councils around Australia and fly the rainbow flag.
Victoria’s Darebin City Council, Surf Coast Shire and Yarra City Council, as well as Palmerston City Council in the Northern Territory, have voted to fly the flag in their municipalities until marriage equality is achieved.
Sam Teale grew up in Shepparton but moved to Melbourne in 2013 for university, where he said he felt it was more accepted to be gay.
‘‘I never considered coming out while I lived in Shepparton,’’ he said.
‘‘But when I came to the city I found there were a lot more people out and proud.’’
Mr Teale said council flying the flag would show support and get a conversation happening about legalising same-sex marriage.
‘‘I think, especially for a rural town, it would be really good if council followed suit and showed support,’’ he said.
‘‘Getting that conversation happening will break those barriers down and hopefully people will start to become more accepting of diversity within their own community.’’
By flying a flag, Mr Teale said council would be sending a message to gay people that even if they did not have the support of their family and friends, they were not outsiders and had the support of the wider community.
Mr Teale said not having the right to marry his partner, Jack, made him feel like a second-class citizen.
‘‘It’s like you’re not good enough for marriage. They’ve said you can have civil union ceremonies, but marriage is still seen as the ultimate commitment you can make,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s like my love for my partner isn’t as good as a straight person’s love for their partner.’’
Since moving to Melbourne, life has changed significantly for Mr Teale.
He said he now felt comfortable enough to hold his partner’s hand in public, something he would not feel comfortable doing in Shepparton.
‘‘It’s not to say I don’t face homophobic stuff in Melbourne, but you’ve got your friends around and generally feel supported,’’ he said.
In the comments section of a post by Marriage Equality Australia on its Facebook page, Palmerston City Council’s Alderman Seranna Shutt detailed her intention to motion for her municipality to fly the flag, tagging Greater Shepparton’s Cr Fern Summer and asking her to do the same.
In a responding comment, Ms Summer said ‘‘Awesome work Seranna Shutt! Our council doesn’t like surprises and we already have it on the books that we support marriage equality, but I wish you all the best’’. She tagged four other members of council in the same comment.
Despite this, Mr Teale said it would be great for council to become one of the frontrunners flying the flag.
‘‘People are just looking for acceptance in their community and I think it’s important that council lead the way and start normalising it in the community,’’ he said.