Tasmania set to back same-sex marriageOnline Only, This Week, Around the World Thursday, August 30th, 2012
SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) – Robbie Moore and Matt Hastings have been together for six years.
As a gay couple, they’ve watched heterosexual members of their families celebrate their big days wondering if they will ever enjoy their own.
But this week could herald the start of a new life for these two Tasmanians: Married life.
In a bold move, the lower house of the Tasmanian Parliament will introduce the Same-Sex Marriage Bill co-sponsored by the ruling Labor party and the Greens. It is expected to easily pass.
The more difficult proposition will be convincing the state’s Upper House of 15 – 13 of whom are independents – to buy the argument of Premier Lara Giddings, that the change will deliver an AUS$100 million (US$103 million) economic boost to the state in gay tourism.
If the upper house ticks off on the bill, Tasmania will become the first state in Australia to legalize same-sex marriage. And there’s every chance it will quickly be followed by South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
If they succeed, they will join 11 nations where same-sex marriage is now legal, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Spain and Norway, along with some U.S. states. New Zealand is also likely to pass same-sex marriage laws.
But as these historic changes blow across Australia, the prime minister, Julia Gillard, and her counterpart in opposition, Tony Abbott, insist marriage is a vow between a man and a woman.
Rodney Croome begs to differ. He will be among those lining up to marry if the bill passes.
“The time for the proposal comes once the law is passed,” he told CNN. “I would love to marry but I think it’s only right for me to propose that to the man I love once the law is passed.”
The face of the gay rights lobby, which in 1997 defeated the Tasmanian law that made homosexuality a punishable crime, Croome is quietly confident as he acknowledges the challenges.
For starters, there’s the prospect of a High Court challenge to the law, if it passes. “Prime Minister Gillard has not ruled it out,” Croome said.
“This is important. Only the Commonwealth has the right to challenge a state law. Anyone else has to obtain standing before the High Court and to do that, they have to show a material disadvantage (as a result of the law) and it’s hard to see how anyone – such as the Catholic Church or the Australian Christian lobby could show that,” he said.
“So if the Commonwealth says no, there will be no challenge,” he added.
Between the law passing and any High Court challenge, it’s anticipated thousands will marry. Croome estimates more than 50 percent of Tasmania’s same-sex couples will rush to the alter and many thousands will flock to Tasmania from other Australian states and territories to do the same.
Public support for same sex marriage is patchy across Australia. But according to Croome, in Tasmania it is significant.
“It took years to reach this level of public support,” he said.
“Some say it’s to do with Tasmania’s convict past: that there were so many men cooped up for so long that the convict era came to be associated with homosexuality and so there was a shame associated with the convict past.”
Whatever the cause of the shift in public thinking, Croome is convinced that if the bill passes into law, “it will be an historic moment.”
For Moore it would be a deeply personal affirmation to know that “even in our own conscience, we are equal to others.”
And for his partner, it would be the moment Australia comes of age, tipping its hat to equal rights for all Australian – religious or otherwise.
Tasmania is an Australian island state 150 miles south of the Australian continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania, the 26th largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands.
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