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More states move forward on marriage equality in Australia

Western Australia has become the latest state to have same-sex marriage legislation before its parliament, while the state parliament of New South Wales will hold an inquiry into the constitutionality of having state-level same-sex marriage
Greens Upper House member Lynn MacLaren

Australian marriage equality advocates have welcomed the introduction of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage into the Western Australian state parliament by Greens' party Upper House member Lynn MacLaren, bringing to six the total number of states and territories moving forward on the issue.

Australian Marriage Equality national convener Rodney Croome said he welcomed the legislation which had the potential to remove discrimination, and strengthen relationships and families.

‘The Bill will also allow Western Australian couples to have a certificate to prove their relationship rights if and when they are challenged,’ Croome said.

‘The introduction of Ms MacLaren's Bill means there are six states and territories with marriage equality legislation on the table - Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and now Western Australia.’

‘The movement for allowing same-sex marriages at a state level is gathering momentum and I have no doubt we will see same-sex couples marrying somewhere in Australia in the next few months.’

MacLaren introduced and spoke to the Marriage Equality Bill 2012 on Thursday but further debate on the bill is expected when the Western Australian parliament resumes next year.

‘Someday soon I hope we will look back on this same-sex marriage debate and wonder what all the fuss was about, and wonder how such inequitable and prejudicial laws could prevent someone from marrying the person they love and how we could have allowed them to persist for so long,’ MacLaren said.

With Western Australia included the only Australian state or territory not moving forward on the issue is the Northern Territory.

Meanwhile, the Government of New South Wales has announced it will examine the constitutionality of having same-sex marriage laws at a state level when heterosexual marriage is defined under federal law.

On November 21 the NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Micheal Gallacher told the parliament, ‘The Premier has decided that it is appropriate for these issues to be properly considered prior to members of the Parliament being asked to vote on any bill.’

‘The Premier has recognised that there are significant issues to be considered and therefore has decided to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Social Issues for consideration.’

The Standing Committee will examine any legal issues around passing marriage laws at a state level, including the interaction of such law with the federal Marriage Act, the rights of any party married under such a law in other states, the response of other jurisdictions both in Australia and overseas, alternative models such as civil unions, and changes in social attitudes to marriage in Australia.

The reporting date for the inquiry will be May 9 2013.

In the meantime a cross party group of members of the New South Wales Legislative Council including National Party, Labor Party, Greens Party and independent MPs is currently drafting legislation and working to create bipartisan support on the issue in the parliament.

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