The Victorian Greens say they will pursue same-sex marriage laws at a state level if federal attempts fail.

Greens MLC and GLBTI spokeswoman Sue Pennicuik told Sydney Star Observer the party was considering the opinion of constitutional expert, Professor George Williams believes the states have the ability to legislate for gay marriage.

“We are looking at it at the moment,” Pennicuik said.

“What is happening in Tasmania and watching to see how [Greens Senator] Sarah [Hanson-Young] goes with her Marriage Equality Bill, that’s all happening at the federal level … but we’re looking at that very seriously.”

Pennicuik said the party would investigate the possibility of a state law further.

“[Williams’] has given an opinion and we’ll have a look at that and see if it would be possible,” she said.

“Unless [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard gives a conscience vote [on the Marriage Equality Bill before federal Parliament], I can’t see it getting up. Labor’s going to vote against it.”

In an opinion piece published in September Williams, a constitutional law expert from Sydney University, said because the federal Marriage Act specifically defines marriage as a union between a man and a women, a state law referring to two people of the same sex, would not directly conflict with the federal act.

“The only possible impediment to a state same-sex marriage law is that it may be overridden by an inconsistent federal law under section 109 of the constitution,” Williams wrote.

“But if it turns out that federal Parliament cannot pass laws for same-sex marriage, it could not override state laws on the topic.”

Marriage laws were previously taken care of by the states until 1961 when the federal Marriage Act was instated.

Pennicuik said the issue will be raised because voters simply want the issue to be resolved.

“For most of the community it’s like ‘of course, lets just do it and move on’,” she said.

Tasmania this year passed a law which recognised overseas same-sex marriage and civil partnerships.

Gay and lesbian couples in Tasmania are able to formalise their relationship in a Deed of Partnership, similar to the Relationship Register in Victoria.

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