Tasmania Defeats Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Jim Burroway

September 28th, 2012

The first attempt at state-based marriage in Australia went down in defeat yesterday when the Legislative Council, Tasmania’s upper house, voted down a measure to provide marriage equality by a vote of  8-6, with one abstention in the 15-member chamber. The vote followed two days of debate. Premiere Lara Giddings vowed to keep the fight up:

“We will continue this. It’s not the end. It’s the beginning,” Ms Giddings said. “It took many times for us to get gay law reform through. It took many times and attempts to get anti-discrimination law reform through.”

Observers predicted that the bill would face its greatest difficulty in the Legislative Council after Tasmania’s lower house passed the measure 13-11. Uncommitted legislators fell back on Constitutional questions to vote against the bill:

Already struggling for numbers in the council, the Same Sex Marriage bill fell after key undeclared MPs raised constitutional doubts. Hobart independent, Jim Wilkinson, said he believed same sex law would continue to be argued. “But I believe it will come back in the Federal arena. In my mind that’s where it should be.”

Among backers of the bill, Devonport MP Mike Gaffney said he was not concerned that the bill might be legally challenged. “If the possibility of an invalid bill stopped us, very little reform would take place,” Mr Gaffney said.  “If we vote this bill down…the issue will not go away. Most importantly, the Australian community is alive to the issue of marriage equality.”

Marriage equality advocates take some consolation in how close they came. Tasmania was the last Australian state to decriminialize homosexuality in1997, and that took place only after the Federal government forced its hand.

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