This evening, the Lower House of Tasmania’s Parliament passed Australia’s first marriage equality bill, which aims to ensure the state’s gay and lesbian citizens will be the first Australians to have equal marriage rights.
After five hours of debate lasting until 7pm this evening, the bill passed with a close vote of 13-11.
Tasmania’s Premier Lara Giddings championed the bill, which had the support of Labor and the Greens. Giddings spoke about the amount of passionately correspondence she’d had on the issue. She concluded however, that “I do not believe the debate about marriage equality is about religious institutions. It is about civil rights.”
Indeed, under the legislation, any religious institution is able to avoid marrying a same-sex couple if it goes against their beliefs. Similar allowances have been made is the rapidly expanding list of countries where marriage equality is a reality.
“The Same-Sex Marriage Act is about equality, fairness and strengthening the institution of marriage,” Giddings said today in the debating chamber.
“The time has come for people in same-sex relationships to honour and celebrate their love in the same way as heterosexual couples can.”
However, Tasmania’s opposition leader Will Hodgman spoke against the bill, fearing that the legislation would lead to an expensive High Court challenge, as it may be unconstitutional, with marriage being a Federal, not State responsibility. “The Liberal Party has always believed that the institution of marriage is between a man and a woman,” he also pointed out, “as a foundation of family and society.”
Tasmania is particularly extraordinary in its new, unique marriage equality endeavors, considering that back in 1997 – only 15 years ago – the state was the last in Australia to legalise homosexual sexual acts.
And marriage equality isn’t the only LGBT issue being progressed in the island state. Last night, Tasmania’s Legislative Council passed laws to enable gay and de facto couples to use a surrogate to carry their child.
Signed by Tasmania’s Premier Lara Giddings, its Minister of Education Nick McKim, and long-time LGBTI equality campaigner Rodney Croome, here’s the Same-Sex Marriage Act 2012 – today’s history-making document. It’ll now make its way to the state’s Upper House.