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Tasmania hits gay marriage stumbling block

After Premier Lara Gidding's announcement, reports suggest the Australian state will have a tough time legalizing marriage equality
Premier Lara Gidding has made a historic announcement legalizing gay marriage but it is unknown whether it will pass through the Upper House of Tasmania's government.

Australian state Tasmania has hit a stumbling block in the process to legalize gay marriage.

According to president of the Legislative Council Sue Smith, she has said it will have a tough time going through Tasmania’s Upper House.

On Saturday (4 August), Premier Lara Giddings told the State Labor Party conference she would move to legalize gay marriage by the end of 2012.

She said: ‘The time has come for that discrimination, that last piece of discrimination, to be removed.’

As the last state in Australia to legalize homosexuality in 1997, Gidding’s statement was a historic moment for the island south of the country.

Giddings said she had legal advice the Australian state could go it alone and she was confident she had the support of all state Labor MPs except Speaker Michael Polley.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Rodney Croome said there had been an overwhelming response to the announcement.

He said: 'In the last 24 hours the response to Lara Gidding's announcement from same-sex couples and their families across the state and the nation has been overwhelming, with emails pouring in asking when can we marry?

'Overnight, Tasmania has become a beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands of Australians.'

As reported by ABC News, Smith said while she personally opposed the change she could not speak for fellow members.

‘I would never presume to understand how my colleagues will vote,’ Smith said.

She added: ‘They will certainly listen to their electorates, they will do their homework and they will formulate an opinion on the wishes of the electorate and the legislation that’s before them.’

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who also opposes marriage equality, has told gays her own relationship proves that they do not need to marry.

She is also determined the bill should be a conscience vote, saying MPs should be free to vote against their own party’s wishes.

Gillard said: ‘We do have a bill before the Federal Parliament dealing with same sex marriage.

‘As for any laws that may be the subject of consideration in Tasmania, we don't have any details at this stage.’

According to legal experts such as Professor Lee Badgett, they estimate Tasmania’s economy could gain a massive boost.

Badgett said if Tasmania becomes the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, then it will benefit by at least $96million (US$101m, £64m, €81m) from couples choosing to marry there.

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