HOBART, Tasmania, Australia — A same-sex marriage equality bill that had passed the lower house of the Tasmanian State Parliament was voted down by the upper house after legal experts, particularly a former state chief justice, called into question the federal constitutional legality of the legislation.
Former state chief justice Bill Cox told Members of Parliament that it was clear the federal government had principal standing on Australia’s marriage law, and any inconsistent state legislation would be struck down by the country’s High Court.
Cox also argued that Premier Lara Giddings’ backing for the bill appeared to be based on the “specious” legal argument that the federal Constitution had left a gap on same-sex marriage that could be filled by the state governments.
“Any such legislation would create a minefield in respect of rights, and make Tasmania a legal laughing stock,” Cox said. “It is foolish to enact legislation which has a strong chance of being declared invalid.”
Marriage Equality rights activist Rodney Croome told the Sydney Morning Herald that it was clear that the majority of Upper House members supported same-sex marriage.
“The fact that almost all the MLCs against this bill cited constitutional issues as the problem shows that we have won the in-principle argument for marriage equality,” he said.
Mike Gaffney, a member representing the Devonport constituency said he was not concerned that the bill might be legally challenged.
“If the possibility of an invalid bill stopped us, very little reform would take place,” he said. “If we vote this bill down … the issue will not go away. Most importantly, the Australian community is alive to the issue of marriage equality.”