Tasmania’s Upper House has voted down a bill to legalise gay marriage in a vote of 8 to 6.
The bill had cleared the Lower House last month in a vote of 13 to 11 but was rejected by the predominantly independent Legislative Council last night.
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings (pictured) expressed her disappointment at the decision last night.
She said Tasmania had missed an opportunity to lead the nation in ending discrimination against same sex couples.
“I share the disappointment of many people from around Tasmania and around the country who were hoping Tasmania would become a beacon of acceptance for same sex couples,” Giddings said.
“Upper House MPs who voted against this legislation have placed themselves on the wrong side of history. There is simply no compelling reason for this discrimination to continue.
“While Tasmania has missed the opportunity to lead the nation, I firmly believe the tide of change is rising and reform is inevitable.”
Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim said that he was bitterly disappointed for the thousands of LGBTI Tasmanians condemned to second class status by the eight legislative councillors who had opposed the Bill.
“The Legislative Council has chosen division over unity, discrimination over respect, and the Nineteenth Century over the Twenty First,” McKim said.
“It has held Tasmania back morally, socially and economically and condemned itself to the wrong side of history.
“The Greens are naturally disappointed at this result, but those really let down by this decision are the thousands of loving same-sex couples who just want to be treated like everybody else.”
A number of the MLCs who voted against the bill said they were doing not because they opposed gay marriage, but because they were not happy with the make up of the bill itself.
Adriana Taylor said during debate that the bill would do nothing to end discrimination.
“It will be a lower-level, marriage-like act,” she said.
“There will not be a marriage certificate but a same-sex marriage certificate.”
A number of MLCs also expressed concern that the bill would face costly legal challenges in the High Court if enacted into state law.
Giddings said it concerned her that some members had hidden behind legal arguments and cost implications to vote against a “fundamental issue of equal rights” for same sex couples.
“When history reflects on this debate people will not remember the legal excuses about why this couldn’t be done, but they will remember the individuals who failed to support change,” she said.
MLC Mike Gaffney who supported the bill said it was ridiculous that people like Kim Kardashian could enter sham marriages but loving couples were denied the right.
“It is not fair, it is not just, and I actually do not believe it is the Australian way,” Gaffney said.
There are currently marriage equality bills before half the state and territory parliaments, including South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT.
Last week, a cross-party group of NSW MPs joined forces in an attempt to introduce marriage equality in the state. It’s expected to be voted on by the end of the year.