The Australian state of Tasmania looks set to become the first part of the country to legalize same-sex marriage after its Premier, Lara Giddings, announced that her state government would pass legislation recognizing same-sex unions if the Australian federal government failed to do so.
Giddings made the commitment at the Tasmanian Labor Party’s state conference this weekend.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman, Rodney Croome, said the commitment from the government was a historic moment for Australia’s LGBT community, particularly as Tasmania had been the last Australian state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1997.
‘Tasmania will be more socially inclusive, we will build stronger relationships and families, our economy will benefit and we will dispel our lingering reputation for intolerance forever,’ Croome said.
‘Nationally, pressure for marriage equality will increase as couples married in Tasmania demand recognition from other Australian governments, and as it becomes clear that the sky doesn’t fall in when same-sex partners wed.’
‘The fact that Tasmania was the last state to decriminalize homosexuality has led us directly to this point because the damage caused by prejudice and discrimination is still a recent and painful memory for many Tasmanians.’
Professor Lee Badgett from the University of California’s Williams Institute estimates that if Tasmania becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriage it will benefit by at least $96 million from couples choosing to marry in the state.
Australian constitutional expert Professor George Williams has backed the plan, and holds the view that the power to make marriage laws is shared by the Commonwealth of Australia and its states.
Williams believes that if the Commonwealth refuses to make a law for one type of marriage, that power then falls to the states.
Croome said that marriage equality foes might try to challenge such a move in the High Court of Australia but doing so would be useful none the less.
‘To those people who say this is too much of a risk, and holds out false hope to same-sex couples, I say that there is much greater risk in not seizing this opportunity and moving forward,’ Croome said.