Marriage equality advocates have hailed a motion passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly calling on the federal Parliament to allow same-sex marriages.

The motion is the second of its kind in Australia with a similar motion being passed by the Tasmanian Parliament in September.

The ACT motion went a step further by affirming that religious celebrants would not be forced to marry same-sex couples.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convener Alex Greenwich said the motion sent a strong message to the federal Parliament that marriage equality is an important and urgent issue.

“Our hope is that other state and territory parliaments will follow the lead of the ACT and Tasmania, thereby amplifying an already powerful message about the importance of this reform,” Greenwich said.

“We are particularly pleased the ACT Legislative Assembly has taken the extra step of assuring concerned Christians that, should same-sex couples be able to marry, religious celebrants will not be forced to perform such marriages.

“AME respects the right of religious bodies to decide who they do and do not legally marry, and in return we hope they respect the right of same-sex partners to enter civil marriages.”

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ACT Deputy Leader Andrew Barr urged his federal counterparts to “make our country a fairer and more inclusive place”.

“Marriage equality is not only a human rights issue, but follows in a long line of important social justice reforms made by Labor governments throughout Australian history — reforms brought about by collective action from the Labor Party,” he said.

“We are at our best as a political party when we work together to make our country a fairer and more inclusive place.”

Greenwich said a Coalition conscience vote would be crucial to achieving reform if, as Julia Gillard flagged this week, the Labor Party allows one on the issue.

“One of the reasons Coalition leader Tony Abbott has been so quick to rule out a conscience vote is that he knows it has growing support in his party room,” Greenwich said.

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