THE chime of wedding bells for same sex couples will be an economic boom for the South West should the gay marriage bill pass according to the region’s wedding industry and tourism advocates.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten put forward a bill to legalise same sex marriage on Monday to the House of Representatives, proposing the replacement of the words ‘man and woman’ with the term ‘two people’.
South West wedding celebrant Joanne Armstrong said it was a matter of when, not if the marriage bill would come to pass and when it did, the South West would substantially benefit economically.
Ms Armstrong said a key reason for her move to the South West was the booming wedding industry and increased international recognition of the region as a major tourist destination.
She said the stunning scenery drew local and international couples to the area, the access to a community of high quality wedding service providers an added bonus.
Greens MP Lynn MacLaren said she knew of couples who were forced to spend their wedding budgets overseas because it was not legal in Australia.
She said wedding tourism earnings would continue to go offshore as time passes without marriage equality in the country.
“Marriage equality will create both social and economic benefits for Australia,” Ms MacLaren said.
“Not only will it end the discrimination based on sexuality it will also allow couples the choice to marry in WA.
“This is bound to create more demand for the wedding industry in Western Australia, especially in the South West.”
Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association chief executive Pip Close said the wedding market made a significant contribution to the Margaret River region’s tourism industry.
“We are in full support of promoting the region as a spectacular weddings destination to all markets,” she said.
True Colours, a Uniting Care West support group for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the South West said while the acceptance of same-sex marriage at a national level was a huge step forward for the community it wont change negative attitudes on a local level immediately.
True Colours manager Misty Farquhar said it sent a clear message that discrimination against LGBTI people was no longer acceptable at a systemic level, which would hopefully see a decrease in discrimination on an individual level over time.
“For the young people that we work with, this is what will make the South West a more appealing option,” she said.
Ms Armstrong said until the legislation changed there were ways that couples planning a wedding can be more mindful with regards to their LGBTI family members or friends.
This includes adding a personal comment before or after the monetum, the legal wording describing marriage as only between a man and a woman that reflects their opinion.
“It doesn't have to be a political statement; just simple words to ensure that no-one attending feels discriminated against,” Ms Armstrong said.
“I often see many people in the audience nodding in agreement.”