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Same-sex marriage in Tasmania looks unlikely

Debate in Tasmania’s upper house shows growing opposition to the bill
Tasmanian MLC Tania Rattray

The passing of same-sex marriage legislation in the Australian island state of Tasmania looks increasingly unlikely as the debate in the upper house has shown significant opposition.

From the speeches of the Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) so far, it is likely seven will vote against the bill, five will support it and two are undeclared.

Ruth Forrest independent MLC introduced the bill yesterday afternoon saying ‘this bill is about people, not religion, not politics’. She supports the bill and said to those who oppose it: ‘if you are not removing discrimination you are ensuring its continuation’.

Another independent MLC Tania Rattray was less convicted. She said that deciding which way to vote had kept her ‘awake at night’ and she has ‘pondered more than I have over any other issue’ during her eight years in parliament.

Rattray said she was nervous about the legal ramifications of passing legislation before the federal government and worried about the cost of a possible High Court challenge.

Ultimately Rattray said that ‘leadership in this situation does not sit comfortably with me… Tasmania should be cautious about diving head first’, so she said that she would not support the bill.

The debate recommenced this morning with Liberal MLC Vanessa Goodwin, who opposes the bill, expressing her ‘disappointment at threatening correspondence’. Goodwin received a tweet from Greens MP Cassy O’Connor last night which said ‘I thought you were better than this Ms Goodwin’, Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury reports.

Another MLC independent Adriana Taylor had not declared her stance before the debate. Advocates were hopping that she would support the bill but despite saying she has ‘always fought discrimination’ she is not convinced the bill will help that cause.

‘We need to fight not the results but the causes of discrimination,’ Taylor said, adding that she believed it was a federal matter and should be decided by referendum or at the next election.

Taylor also compared same-sex couples with those in the Muslim community who have ‘up to four wives’ and she doesn’t see potential demands for the legal support of the later as different to the former.

Taylor said she faces losing her ‘very good gay friends’ over the decision not to support the bill but she said ‘I can’t decide on how I feel, I have to decide for the good of the Tasmanian community’.

Independent MLC Michael Gaffney began his speech on the subject but did not declare how he will support it before the chamber was adjourned for lunch.

Gaffney did say ‘marriage is not an ‘immutable institution’… marriage has changed and evolved over time’ suggesting he might support the bill.

The final undeclared vote is that of independent MLC James Wilkinson who had expressed his support for the bill but last week appeared to express a change of heart.

If both Gaffney and Wilkinson support the bill the vote will be at a stalemate.

The debate and vote in Tasmania’s upper house follows the same in the lower house at the end of last mouth, when the same-sex marriage bill was supported 13 to 11, after being pushed by Premier Lara Giddings

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