The debate about marriage equality has been divisive around Australia.
The debate about marriage equality has been divisive around Australia. A2955/_Wolfgang Kumm

Why LGBTI group hasn't taken sides... until now

IT MAY seem obvious where one of the most prominent LGBTI groups on the Northern Rivers stands on the hotly debated topic of same-sex marriage.

But Tropical Fruits has proven the issue hasn't been clear cut within its diverse community with the not-for-profit officially taking a stance for same-sex marriage just last week.

The voluntary association has joined the hundreds of same-sex marriage supporters aligned with advocacy group, Australian Marriage Equality.

Prior to last week, club manager Hannah Rice-Hayes said they were impartial to marriage equality by maintaining a "careful line” to be apolitical and avoid isolating those with differing views in their community.

She said reasons why some LGBTI people were against same-sex marriage were 'very personal' with some standing against the institution of marriage.

But when the executives of Tropical Fruits met with Australian Marriage Equality last week, Ms Rice-Hayes said one particular element of the debate compelled them to take a side.

"We acknowledge equality is a human rights issue and that helped us make the decision for us to be in support of marriage equality,” she said.

"At the end of the day, it comes down to equality and having a choice.”

So far, the move has been well-received within the Tropical Fruits community Ms Rice-Hayes said.

"Everybody I've spoken to is in support of everybody having a choice. I'd like to think most of our community is in support of providing a choice,” she said.

For Ms Rice-Hayes, that choice extends to both sides of the same-sex marriage argument and said she personally agreed with Page MP Kevin Hogan's call for churches to determine whether they marry gay couples.

"We can't ask for equality and then not extend that same entitlement to other people within our own community even if their beliefs are different to my own,” she said.

Above all, Ms Rice-Hayes agreed with Mr Hogan's hard-line against vitriolic campaigns leading into the postal plebiscite, when she raised concerns about the well-being of LGBTI people.

"It will be damaging and particularly the young ones who are in a rural communities who are already on the outside, there is going to be damage done during this process,” she said.

Ms Rice-Hayes said Tropical Fruits and LGBQTI health service ACON Northern Rivers were resources the community could rely on if they needed counselling or support.

For those in need of support contact LGBQTI health service ACON, 1800 633 637 or the Beyondblue Support Service, 1300 22 4636.