BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – "In the 21st century moral disapproval is no reason to deny or curtail rights and freedoms," Labor Premier Lara Giddings said as Tasmania's lower house of parliament passed a same-sex marriage bill on Aug 30, paving the way for what many expect will be a tougher path through the upper house.

Thirteen of the 15 upper house members are independent, with several yet to indicate their stance, The Herald Sun reports. If the bill prevails in the upper house, Tasmania will be set to become the first Australian state to allow gay marriage.

The bill, co-sponsored by Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim, was passed in the lower house by a 13 to 11 vote. All the Liberal MPs, plus House Speaker Michael Polley, of the Labour party, voted against the measure. According to The Herald Sun, Liberal leader Will Hodgman said his team is unified behind the view that marriage is between a man and a woman and is "a matter for the commonwealth."

Giddings disagreed. "The denial of marriage to lesbian and gay couples and their families is discrimination that must be changed."

"At the core of this debate is the belief that we are all equal before the law, and where the law prejudices one person over another change is required," she observed.

"Daughters wrote to me in support of their lesbian mothers, mothers and fathers wrote to me in support of their children in same-sex relationships, men and women in long-term committed relationships wrote to me with the hope that soon their relationship will receive the recognition they've longed for for decades," she said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Liberals suggest the move to legalize gay marriage would open up Tasmania to a high court challenge, but Giddings indicated she has received legal advice that contradicts that perspective, The Herald Sun reports.

Interestingly, Tasmania was the last state to decriminalize homosexuality, in 1997, The Sun notes.

Landing image: Premier of Tasmania

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