In an unexpected move, Tasmania’s House of Assembly has voted 22 to 3 to recognise same-sex marriages and civil unions as registered relationships under Tasmanian law.

Only three dissenting Liberals voted against the amendment, with two Liberals and all Labor and Green MPs in the House voting in favour.

One of the dissenting Liberals, Michael Ferguson, also proposed an amendment which would have allowed civil unions to be recognised but not same-sex marriages, but this too was voted down 22 to 3.

Tasmanian Attorney-General Lara Giddings told ABC News the amendment sought to remove discrimination against same-sex couples who had registered their relationships in one form or another overseas.

“This is really a small step, but a significant and important step for those people who have registered or been through a civil union process elsewhere around the world and want us to recognise that relationship as indeed being in existence,” she said.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said couples in Tasmanian Deeds of Relationship were already recognised in other states and some countries overseas, and reciprocal recognition of couples would bring important benefits to couples travelling through, or relocating to, Tasmania.

“Couples in Tasmanian Deeds of Relationship have benefitted in a range of areas from being recognised in places like the UK and New Zealand, and couples coming to Tasmania will benefit in similar ways when their unions are recognised here,” he said.

Croome said the amendment would mean that same-sex couples from interstate or overseas who were in some form of registered partnership would be automatically considered next-of-kin.

“A couple in an existing union relocating to Tasmania can also rest assured their relationship will be respected without the need for a long and costly re-registration process.”

The amendment must now pass Tasmania’s Legislative Council, which is comprised of one Liberal, three Labor members, and 11 independents.

The amendment is expected to be voted on in the Legislative Council within one month.

Elsewhere in Australia, the ACT  recognises civil partnerships registered in other states, territories and countries, but not same-sex marriages.

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