SYDNEY: The small island of Tasmania could become the first Australian state to allow same-sex marriage after Premier Lara Giddings said Sunday she backed legislation to permit it.
Giddings said she believed that a “tipping point” had been reached where more people were in favour of allowing gay marriage than were opposed to it.
“We are intending to… debate the legislation that is currently before the Tasmanian parliament, that would allow for marriage to occur between same sex couples here in Tasmania,” she said.
Tasmania was the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexual sex when it did so in 1997, but Giddings said since then the lush island state had been progressive in its social reforms.
“Since then we’ve led the nation on significant relationships laws,” which broke down other discriminations against same-sex couples, she told Channel 7 television.
“And now we are leading the way on saying the time has come where the last bit of discrimination where the state is involved… should now be removed.”
Marriage is covered by federal legislation in Australia which defines it as between a man and a woman so while civil same-sex unions are recognised in five states, the couples are not seen as “married” by the national government.
Same-sex couples have, however, the same rights as heterosexual couples in areas such as pension schemes and medical benefits.
Giddings said she had received legal advice that Tasmania could press ahead with the reform.
“That’s not to say that it couldn’t be, or wouldn’t be, challenged down the track,” she said. “And of course if it ends up being challenged in the High Court, it will become a matter for the High Court to determine.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard opposes legalising same-sex marriages but will allow members of the national parliament a conscience vote on the matter and some, including Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, have said they will support it.
But because the conservative Liberal/National opposition will likely reject the legislation there is little prospect of the laws changing.
Channel News Asia