Tasmania’s administration, leaving behind the slow pace of the Australian federal government, has said it will push on with marriage equality plans even if federal plans fail.
[Premier Lara Giddings] said the state government would look to introduce legislation before the end of the year if acts currently before the federal parliament fail.
Legal advice suggested that there was nothing to stop a state going it alone, she said.
A same-sex marriage act already has the support of the state’s Greens, with whom the ALP shares power, but it would need to get past an upper house with 13 independents among its 15 members.
“I believe the community has reached that tipping point now where more people than not believe that this last form of discrimination should be removed,” Ms Giddings said.
These comments were made this week as members of Tasmania’s presiding Labor Party convened in Hobart for the annual state conference. However, this announcement did not sit well with the Party’s right-leaning faction.
Members of the party’s Right faction remained seated as the dominant Left members gave a standing ovation in support of the announcement.
Senator Helen Polley, from the Right, says there should not be any celebrations.
“I truly believe that the majority of Tasmanians are opposed to same sex marriage,” she said.
The Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania and Victoria all currently recognize civil unions. The federal government recognizes those unions for the purposes of federal entitlements, but coverage is limited.
The legal landscape under which Tasmania operates would appear to allow individual states to act independently of the federal government so as to legalize state-level marriages, potentially creating a similar legal situation to the one American same-sex couples face where individual states may sanction their marriages while for many federal purposes they will remain legal strangers.
Australia’s federal fight for marriage equality seems to have stalled since introduction of legislation earlier this year, even though the marriage equality bill has been the most strongly supported legislation in Australian history.
Tasmania remains ahead of the curve in support for marriage equality, with a 2010 national survey showing residents had already reached the 50% threshold of support, putting them far ahead of the national average.