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Topics In the News
Tasmania Marriage Equality Bill Approved by Lower House
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 08/30/12
Last updated on: 08/30/12
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Premier Lara Giddings.

On August 30, 2012, Tasmania's marriage equality bill was approved by the Australian state's lower house. The bill, co-sponsored by Labor Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim, passed the assembly on a 13-11 vote, thus making Tasmania's lower house the first chamber of an Australian parliament to pass a bill authorizing marriage equality.

As Dan Harrison reports in The Age, Labor MPs were given a free vote on the measure. All but one of the 12 Labor MPs voted in favor of the bill.

In contrast, Liberal Leader Will Hodgman, who was the lone MP to speak against the bill, bound his 10 MPs to oppose the bill.

The two Greens in parliament voted in favor.

Tasmania was the last Australian state to decriminalize homosexuality. Until 1997, it was a criminal offense punishable by up to 25 years' in prison.

However, in recent years Tasmania has been at the forefront of equality efforts. In 2010, when Lara Giddings was Attorney General, Tasmania became the first state in Australia to recognize same-sex marriages registered in other countries.

Veteran gay activist Rodney Croome, who spearheaded the campaign for gay law reform in the state in the 1990s, said the passage of the marriage equality bill would "banish forever Tasmania's reputation for homophobia."

In the debate on the marriage equality bill, Premier Giddings expressed the hope that the state would be Australia's first to authorize same-sex marriage.

"It was not that long ago that Tasmania was the laughing stock of the country, as the only state where intolerance against homosexual men was still enshrined in legislation," she told Parliament.

Premier Giddings also said that it was the duty of twenty-first-century legislators to remove discrimination.

"I do not believe that the personal moral disapproval that some individuals may feel towards same-sex marriage is a valid reason to allow discrimination to continue," she said.

She pointed to the mental health benefits of marriage equality and said conservative leaders like New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and even some religious leaders backed same-sex marriage.

"Today we have an opportunity to lead the nation," she said.

"At the core of this debate is the belief that we are all equal before the law, and where the law prejudices one person over another change is required."

Greens Leader McKim, who first introduced a marriage equality bill in 2005, said there was no such thing as "mostly equal."

"This is a pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-children bill," he told the chamber.

The bill's prospects in the Legislative Council, the Tasmanian Parliament's upper chamber, is not clear. Of its 15 members, 13 are independent.

The Legislative Council will consider the bill when Parliament returns from recess in three weeks.

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage nation-wide is before Federal Parliament and a vote is expected before the end of the year. But the bill, introduced by Labor backbencher Stephen Jones, looks likely to be defeated by the combined forces of its Labor opponents--including Prime Minister Julia Gillard--and the opposition Coalition.

Frustration with Prime Minister Gillard's failure of leadership on this issue led Premier Giddings to announce on August 4, 2012 that Tasmania would legislate marriage equality this year regardless of the actions of the national government. More on her decision may be found here.

Her announcement was soon followed by the pledge of South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill to enact marriage equality in his state, as reported here.

In addition, legislation authorizing marriage equality is pending the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

In the video below, Premier Giddings expresses confidence that her bill will be enacted into law.

The video below reports on the introduction of the bill in Tasmania's Parliament.

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