The top commanders in Fire & Rescue NSW are understood to be deeply unhappy about the stance taken by Glen Innes Fire Station in supporting the “yes” side in the survey on gay marriage.
They issued instructions that the Rainbow Flag and the sign saying “yes” were to be removed. A short time later, the two potent symbols had been taken down.
It’s understood that the Professional Standards and Conduct Unit of Fire Rescue NSW had become involved.
The opinion at the top level of the service was that it was not appropriate to have a political message. The organisation does not take a stand, was the view.
But the picture of Station Officer Matt Goldman and the “yes” sign has taken off on Facebook, with fire stations all over the country contacting the headquarters in Sydney. Opinion has been split.
On Facebook, Glen Innes’ stand has been strongly supported. A teacher at the High School wrote: “Great! Well done fire-peeps!”
Another resident wrote: “This is wonderful. There has been very little ‘yes’ representation in Glen Innes. I'm sure that this gesture from a respected institution will help many people feel less isolated in this debate.”
Others have condemned the statement, though: “ I don’t believe that government run organisations should be advocates for either side”, was one comment.
There is also a debate going on within churches in the area. James Gresham, a Christian from Glen Elgin, said: “I rather wish that fire brigades concentrated on fighting fires rather that political grandstanding.”
He felt that legalising gay marriage would lead to Christians having views imposed on them. “It is sad that in the interests of ‘inclusiveness’, a good section of the community is now excluded.
“Everyone is happy for fire brigades to fight fires. But they have pursued a politically divisive issue. There are times when one has to take a side, but to take a side and then say I am inclusive is delusional.”
He concluded: “Public agencies need to be totally a-political, if they want serve the public.”
The Examiner has contacted Fire & Rescue NSW for a response.