A visiting US academic says Tasmania could boost its economy to the tune of $96 million if it moves to legalise same-sex marriage ahead of the rest of Australia.

The figure comes from a report — released by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law’s Williams Institute — which says Australia, as a whole, could see a $161 million spending surge over three years if it allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The (Australia-wide) estimate is based on a projection that 54 percent (or 17,820) of Australia’s approximately 33,000 same-sex couples would marry.

Williams Institute Research director and lead author Professor Lee Badgett said these figures are conservative because they only include spending by Australian couples and don’t include the outlay by wedding guests or couples travelling to Australia to marry.

“Should Tasmania become the ‘first mover’ in allowing same-sex couples to marry, it will capture a large share of the [$161 million] Australian same-sex wedding market, as much as $96 million,” Badgett said.

“But even as a lower-end figure, $96 million is still significant, especially because it will mostly benefit the small business sector which is critical to the health of the Tasmanian economy.”

While in Hobart last week, Badgett presented her findings to Tasmanian Labor Premier Lara Giddings, Tourism Minister Scott Bacon, Liberal representative Elise Archer, representatives of the Tasmanian Small Business Council and the Tourism Council.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said the findings show Tasmania should press ahead with plans to legalise same-sex marriage.

“Professor Badgett’s report shows why allowing same-sex marriage will benefit all Tasmanians, not just gay people and our families,” Croome said.

“Should the federal Parliament fail to enact marriage equality later this year, the Badgett report is a compelling reason for Tassie to go it alone.

“If we don’t reap the equality dividend, another state or territory is sure to.”

Last year, the Tasmanian Parliament voted to give in-principle support for same-sex marriage.

Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim has reintroduced a bill to legalise same-sex marriage, saying he will push for a vote if the federal Parliament fails to deliver change.

Although marriage is covered under federal law, the Greens say they have constitutional advice that states can legislate specifically for gay marriage.

South Australia is the only other state with a same-sex marriage bill before its Parliament.

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