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Australian states revolt on marriage equality

South Australia looks set to become the second Australian state to legalize same-sex marriage while the territory that houses the Australian capital will restore official ceremonies to its civil unions scheme

A second Australian state government has announced it will move to legalize same-sex marriage at a state level on a day that thousands of protestors marched in cities all over the country calling on federal parliamentarians to deliver on reform.

At a rally in the South Australian capital of Adelaide, state Labor Party leader and premier Jay Weatherill declared his government would support a Greens party bill legalizing same-sex marriages at a state level.

‘I support the principle of marriage equality,’ Weatherill told a cheering crowd of protesters.

‘People should be entitled to express their own identity in any way they wish and the law should not be a barrier to prevent them from doing that.

‘That is why I support the legislation to provide for marriage equality and that is why I am at the rally indicating my support.

‘It is a natural human right and something we should not interfere with, and I think the broader community supports it.’

The news came just days after the premier of the state of Tasmania declared her government would become the first in the country to legalize same-sex marriage, and came on the same day that the territory that houses the Australian capital of Canberra announced it would move to restore official ceremonies to its civil unions scheme – something past federal governments had intervened to veto.

A federal Greens party bill giving Australian territories more autonomy passed through the parliament in November last year, meaning the federal government no longer has automatic veto power over laws passed in the Australian Capital Territory.

Traditionally marriage in Australia has been governed by the federal government. However constitutional experts have said there is no barrier to states legalizing same-sex marriage if the federal government drags its feet on the issue.

There are three bills to legalize same-sex marriage before the federal parliament, however the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, opposes marriage equality and has only let her MPs have a conscience vote on the issue. The opposition leader Tony Abbott also opposes marriage equality and has refused his MPs a conscience vote, meaning it is unsure whether the numbers are there to pass any of the bills.

But Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich was upbeat about recent developments and is still confident that enough MPs can be convinced to vote for the bills.

‘The message from today's events couldn't be clearer - Australians want marriage equality and if the federal government fails to deliver the reform will happen state by state and territory by territory,’ Greenwich said.

‘With the Tasmanian, South Australian and ACT Governments all moving ahead on the issue we are more hopeful than ever before that same-sex marriages will occur on Australian soil this year.’

‘This reform will happen so the only question for [Federal] MPs and Senators is what side of history do they want to be on?’

Greenwich has recently been tipped to enter Australian politics in the state of New South Wales where a law barring MPs from also serving on local councils has meant that Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore will have to choose between that role and being the area’s local MP.

Greenwich has refused to confirm or deny reports that Moore has been grooming him to replace her in state parliament, although he is currently running as a candidate on Moore’s City of Sydney ticket for local council elections.

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