NOVEMBER 18, 2015, saw the Tasmanian parliament vote overwhelmingly for marriage equality, and in doing so it sent a strong message to federal MPs in Australia to support the reform throughout the country.

A Greens motion for equality was passed 15 votes to 9 with the support of Liberal Premier Will Hodgman and almost half of his Liberal colleagues.

Jubilation in Tasmania over a momentous equality vote in November 2015

The Australian Marriage Equality National Director and 2015 Tasmanian of the Year, Rodney Croome, said: “I am very proud of the Tasmanian Parliament for sending a strong message to Canberra that it’s time for marriage equality and a strong message to the nation that Tasmania is an inclusive society.

“I applaud Will Hodgman, his deputy, Jeremy Rockliff, and all those Liberals who have shown courage and leadership by voting for the marriage equality motion.”

“I hope those Tasmanian federal members who are yet to declare their support for marriage quality heed the Tasmanian Parliament and take the message to Canberra that Tasmanians want marriage equality. The fact the Tasmanian Liberals had a free vote on marriage equality is a reminder to their federal Liberal colleagues that free votes are a foundational Liberal principle, and that they should do the same when voting on marriage equality legislation.”

Croome pointed out that Will Hodgman is the only current Liberal Premier who supports marriage equality and there is more support among Tasmanian Liberal state MPs than in any other Liberal caucus in Australia.

“I pay tribute to all those Tasmanians from all walks of life – couples, parents, business people, farmers, sports people and people of faith – who have patiently spoken out in support of marriage equality.” While noting a High Court ruling that states can’t individually legislate for same-sex marriage, Hodgman said it had consistently been the case that Tasmanian Liberal members have a conscious vote on the matter.

“This vote will reassure Tasmanian LGBTI couples that their parliament regards their love for each other as equal and supports their right to express their love through marriage if they choose,” Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said.

Rockliff said his “yes” vote might surprise some people. “I believe that those who are committed and in a loving relationship should have the ability, in the eyes of the law … to get married,” he said.

At the beginning of June, 2015, about 1,000 same-sex marriage supporters took to the streets in Sydney in a colourful rally for equal rights in Australia. Corporate businesses were behind full-page newspaper ads calling for change, and politicians on both sides of parliament supported same-sex marriage on social media.

Following the public momentum, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten introduced a private member’s bill to parliament calling for overseas same-sex marriages to be recognised, and the terminology in the Marriage Act to be changed to include same-sex couples.

“For too long we in this parliament have been following, not leading,” Shorten told the parliament. “It is within our power to change this. It is a double standard that divides families, and our country. It’s not fair and it’s not who we are. And it should change,” he said.

“To some this may seem a small gesture; in truth it means so much to so many.”