Marriage equality advocates have hailed Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings for her pledge to introduce marriage equality laws by the end of 2012 if the federal Parliament failed to act.
The premier made her announcement at the Labor State Conference in Hobart on Saturday.
It is understood the proposed legislation would pass through Tasmania’s Lower House but its chances in the Upper House remain uncertain.
Constitutional expert Professor George Williams has backed the plan and has previously said any challenge by the Federal Government would not stand up in the High Court.
Giddings said she expected the rest of the country would be watching this issue closely.
“It is my hope that the Commonwealth Parliament will also act on this issue in the not too distant future, noting that there is support same-sex unions on all sides of federal politics,” she said.
“There will always be excuses, arguments and questions of timing when moving on difficult and controversial issues.
“But just as we have responded to other forms of discrimination throughout history, there comes a time when no amount of excuses should stand in the way of doing what is right.”
Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said it was logical for Tasmania to take the lead since it was the first state to enact a civil union scheme and recognise overseas marriages.
“Tasmania will be more socially inclusive, we will build stronger relationships and families, our economy will benefit and we will dispell our lingering reputation for intolerance forever,” he said.
“Nationally, pressure for marriage equality will increase as couples married in Tasmania demand recognition from other Australian governments, and as it becomes clear that the sky doesn’t fall in when same-sex partners wed.”
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said Tasmania had become a beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands of Australians.
“The fact that, for the first time ever, we may have legal same-sex marriages on Australian soil, will build pressure for the federal parliament to act and be an incentive for other states to follow Tasmania,” he said.
“Same-sex couples marrying in Tasmania will also show the rest of the nation that the sky doesn’t fall just because two people of the same sex declare their love and commitment.”
Greenwich said same-sex couples married in Tasmania would raise the pressure on the Federal Government to allow same-sex marriage nationally.
There are currently three marriage equality bills in the federal Parliament.
Victoria and South Australia also have marriage equality bills in their parliaments.
In 1997, Tasmania became the last state to decriminalise homosexuality in Australia.