The Tasmanian Government has rejected renewed calls for it to legalise gay marriage.
Gay rights activists said Tasmania had similar abilities to legislate on marriage equality and should follow the example of Scotland, which has a separate Parliament from the rest of the United Kingdom and recently announced it would legislate to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said if the federal government failed to legislate gay marriage this year, Tasmania should lead Australia on the issue.
“It makes sense for Tasmania to lead on same-sex marriage because we have the constitutional power to legislate in this area and it will reap a massive economic windfall,” Croome said.
“If Tasmania were to be the first mover in Australia it would send out a positive message that we are a truly inclusive society that has moved on from the time when were the last state to criminalise same-sex relationships.”
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said marriage reform was a matter for the federal Parliament.
“Tasmania has been a leader in recognising same-sex relationships,” a spokeswoman for the Premier told Star Observer.
“Labor supports same-sex marriage and while the Marriage Act is a federal law, the matter will be discussed at the ALP State Conference next month.”
University of NSW constitutional law expert Professor George Williams said if the Commonwealth failed to legislate same-sex marriage, the states could.
“The Constitution actually preserves the power of the states in this regard,” he said.
Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim has said he would bring forward legislation if reform fails federally.
The Tasmanian Greens, who share power with the current Labor government, have sought to legislate same-sex marriage repeatedly; entering bills in 2005, 2008 and 2011 only to be blocked by the two major parties.
The Premier has indicated she will not support any future marriage amendments the Greens bring forward.
“The possibility of New Zealand achieving marriage equality puts more pressure on Tasmania to take the lead because every Australian same-sex couple who marries in New Zealand will be spending money that could be spent here,” Croome said.