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Tasmania weighs in on same-sex marriage – and its position surprised us

Less than 20 years ago, being gay in Tasmania wasn’t just frowned upon — it was illegal.

In 1997, Tasmania became the last state in Australia to decriminalise sodomy, commonly defined as a perverted sexual act that involves anal intercourse.

As a result, our most southern state has developed a reputation for harbouring views on homosexuality that were not particularly open, progressive or forward-thinking — until now.

In a surprising turn of events, Tasmania’s premier and deputy premier have come out in support of same-sex marriage, with Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff confirming for the first time on the public record: “I’m absolutely unequivocally in favour of same-sex marriage equality.”

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After an extended debate on Nov. 18, the state’s Lower House voted 15 to 9 in favour of supporting marriage equality, making Tasmania the third state parliament in Australia to officially support marriage equality.

“I really welcome the opportunity to express my views for the first time publicly, and I’m absolutely unequivocally in favour of same-sex marriage equality. I have been for some years now,” Rockliff said.

“I believe very firmly that those who are committed and in a loving relationship should have the ability by law and the eyes of the law in society that, if they have chosen a significant other to spend the rest of their lives with, then they should be able to get married.”

He added, “In years to come, we will actually really wonder why it took so long to get to this point.”

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Obviously not all of Tasmania’s MPs shared his view, with six in the mix who voted against the bill based on religious grounds.

One of the most vocal opponents to marriage equality present, Liberal MP Guy Barnett, said he strongly opposed same-sex marriage, as “children deserve to grow up with at least the chance of a mum and a dad.”

“Same-sex marriage would deny them that right. If same-sex marriage is passed, we will enter, in my view, a whole new era, an era where gender will not matter anymore. A whole new era where we have an environment which undermines marriage itself and violates the rights of the child,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said he did not believe that supporting marriage equality “will affect the sanctity of the institution of marriage.”

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“We live in a world that contains non-traditional relationships, de facto, single-parent, significant relationships, same-sex relationships,” he said.

“I intend to vote in support at the national plebiscite in support of same-sex marriage.”

If Tasmania is on board, is our country really that far away from legalising this basic human right?

A national plebiscite on same-sex marriage, which has the potential to legally change the Marriage Act in Australia to become inclusive of homosexual unions, is due to be held in 2016.

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