Lawmakers in the Australian state of Tasmania have approved a bill that recognizes the marriages and civil unions of gay and lesbian couples formed outside its borders.

The state's Legislative Council approved the amendment to the Relationships Act with little opposition, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

While gay couples cannot legally marry anywhere in Australia, the move makes Tasmania, a grouping of islands located about 150 miles south of the Australian mainland, the first state to recognize the marriages of gay couples celebrated outside its borders. Elsewhere in the country, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) recognizes the unions of gay couples with civil partnerships.

Members of the House of Assembly overwhelmingly approved the bill last month.

“This is really a small step, but a significant and important step for those people who have registered or been through a civil union process elsewhere around the world and want us to recognize that relationship as indeed being in existence,” Tasmanian Attorney General Lara Giddings told ABC News earlier this month.

A bill that would have legalized gay marriage in Australia died in the Senate last year.