The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) has refused a challenge by Tasmanian activist Rodney Croome to debate the issue of state-based same-sex marriage.

Croome made the challenge following the GLRL’s opposition to Greens legislation that aims to allow same-sex marriage in NSW.

Because the Lobby has opposed such legislation so vigorously I think it’s up of them to defend that decision publicly and state their reasoning, Croome said.

Particularly as opponents of LGBT equality like [Tasma-nian] Senator Guy Barnett are now quoting the Lobby approvingly. I think the Lobby has some explaining to do.

Senator Barnett, the politician credited with initiating the federal same-sex marriage ban, referred to the GLRL’s position in The Mercury newspaper to bolster his own opposition to state-based marriage.

GLRL co-convenor Julie McConnell told Sydney Star Observer there was no need for another debate where two sides with different strategies shout each other down, as happened at the marriage forum at the Newtown Hotel a fortnight ago.

She accused Croome of pushing the concept of state-based same-sex marriage without consulting any other group in the country, and said it was hypocritical of Croome to attack the GLRL for highlighting the major shortcomings of the strategy.

The Lobby will not support state same-sex marriage because it does not give us any new rights, and it relegates our relationships to second-best, McConnell said.

Fellow GLRL co-convenor David Scamell said a push for state-based marriage could have a detrimental impact on gay and lesbian people.

From our point of view, going for state-based same-sex marriage puts out the idea that our relationships aren’t equal and aren’t the same as marriage under federal law. We should focus on the federal law, and that’s why we’ve come out so strongly against the issue.

Croome believes the marriage legislation would take tension away from the parenting reforms the GLRL is pushing for, which are expected to be raised in the NSW House of Representatives during its spring session.

While he conceded it was up to the GLRL to decide which strategy was best for NSW, Croome said: I know putting up marriage reform will help parenting reform, not hinder it.

There has not been a good working relationship between the NSW GLRL and Croome’s Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG) for at least a decade, and in the past year tensions had reached boiling point, Croome admitted.

Since the passage of the same-sex marriage ban the relationship has been pretty frosty and it deteriorated rapidly when the Greens announced they were going to introduce same-sex marriage legislation in NSW, he said.

Their main differences have been over the strategies they use to encourage reform.

The Tasmanian group believes in legislative activism, where they encourage the introduction of far-reaching law reform in the hope of generating community debate and gaining support for smaller reforms.

After meeting with NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon this week, Scamell said he respected the party’s goal of keeping the issue of gay marriage in the media, even if he disagreed with their marriage bill.

Rhiannon told the Star they agreed to disagree on tactics, but she understood where the GLRL was coming from.

The GLRL has taken out a full-page ad in this week’s Star outlining their stance on state-based same-sex marriage and announcing a community forum on the issue to take place on Saturday 18 June.

Law professor and former Lobby board member Jenni Millbank’s opinion piece on state-based marriage appears on page 11 of this week’s Star.

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