A bill which would legalize gay
marriage in the Australian state of Tasmania cleared the state's
lower house of Parliament on Thursday.
The measure is sponsored by Labor
Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim and cleared the
chamber with a 13 to 11 vote.
The bill now heads to the state's Upper
House, where 13 of its 15 members are independents not bound to vote
with the ruling Labor party.
In campaigning for votes, Giddings has
touted the economic benefits of marriage equality: “There is
strong evidence that legislation for same-sex marriage will provide a
significant economic boost and create jobs for Tasmanians.”
If approved, Tasmania would become the
first state in Australia to legalize gay nuptials.
At least three additional states –
South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital
Territory – are also expected to debate the issue.
Australia's Marriage Act is a federal
law and some wondered if the state was exceeding its authority.
Giddings said the government has received legal advice that it can
enact such legislation because the marriages of gay and lesbian
couples are currently not regulated by federal law.
The island state of Tasmania only
decriminalized gay sex in 1997, making it the last Australian state
to do so.