DURING this month’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival the iconic rainbow flag, a global symbol of the LGBTI community, will flutter above Sydney Town Hall.
But it’s likely to be a lonely gesture with a Star Observer analysis revealing only a handful of the 38 councils in Sydney’s metropolitan area similarly committed to raising the colourful emblem.
In the letter, seen by the Star Observer, Moore said: “Local government plays a pivotal role in raising community awareness, promoting acceptance and inclusion.
“Raising a rainbow flag makes a public statement in support of these values and enables councils to join with our GLBTI communities in celebration.”
However, a number of local government areas have outright refused to fly the banner, Moore has been accused of playing politics with the flag and at least one mayor has questioned why the gay symbol should be raised at all.
The Star Observer contacted all 38 Sydney councils to confirm if they had received the letter and would follow through.
City of Sydney aside, only three other local government areas (LGAs) — Marrickville, Leichhardt and Botany Bay — said they were planning to fly the flag although all said their decision was made before Moore’s letter.
Marrickville said they had a long tradition of supporting LGBTI causes and more than 30 flags were currently fluttering from lampposts within the inner west’s council’s boundaries.
Leichhardt said the emblem would be raised at a special community event on February 20.
Meanwhile Botany Bay Mayor Ben Keneally said this year would be the first time the rainbow flag had been flown from the town hall in Mascot.
He said the decision was made “to recognise support and celebrate the diversity of our residents, staff members, family and friends that are LGBTI”.
Eight councils variously said the request was under consideration, including North Sydney, Parramatta and Ryde, with Canada Bay and Ku-ring-gai councils claiming they had not received Moore’s letter despite it being sent almost two weeks ago.
Of the eight, only two councils — Ashfield and Pittwater — could point to active work being done to give the flag the green light with both mayors due to take supportive motions to their council meetings within the next 10 days.
Pittwater Mayor Jacqueline Townsend, whose LGA is the city’s northern beaches, stated in a mayoral minute that displaying the flag would be a “symbolic gesture” to “demonstrate support for the local LGBTI community”.
Five councils — Penrith, Hornsby, Liverpool, Bankstown and Mosman — confirmed the rainbow flag would not be raised.
“Mosman Council has not flown the rainbow flag in the past and there are currently no plans to change this practice,” a council spokeswoman said.
A statement from Liverpool Council said: “As we are so diverse if we agreed to raise flags representative of every group… in our community, we would be unable to accommodate everyone fairly.”
A Penrith Council spokesperson said their flagpoles only flew flags “representing territories, states or nations,” a similar position held by Bankstown.
Hornsby Shire Council Mayor Steve Russell said Mardi Gras was “a very valuable event” but he had reservations about the need to raise the flag at all.
“I would like to think we’re past the days of having to display a rainbow flag to prove you’re not anti-gay, any more than somebody needs to express their support for women being allowed to vote – in today’s society such concepts go without saying,” he said.
“However, if Sydney Council sends us a flag we will be happy to display it to help advertise the festival.”
Among the councils who have refused, several including Penrith, Hornsby and Bankstown said they had longstanding LGBTI initiatives in place while one council source questioned why Moore had overlooked these and was focused solely on the flag.
No less than 19 councils failed to respond to the Star Observer’s request including inner city LGAs such as Strathfield, Rockdale and Waverley and larger ones such as the Hills, Sutherland and Blacktown.
Mardi Gras chief executive Michael Rolik said: “The rainbow flag holds great significance within the community and is seen as a symbol of acceptance and equality.
“By having other councils recognise and celebrate this through the raising of the rainbow flag would carry great weight within the LGBTQI community.”
Flying the flag? Yes:
Flying the flag? Maybe
Ashfield (mayoral support)
Pittwater (mayoral support)
Flying the flag? No
Flying the flag? If they are, they haven’t told anyone