Most Australians know that last week the Tasmanian Lower House passed a motion in support of marriage equality.
The motion sent an important message to the Labor Party National Conference and to the Federal Parliament.
The message was made stronger because MPs from religious and blue collar backgrounds supported the motion so ardently, and because opposition from the Liberal Party was muted (we heard none of the Liberals’ past claims about marriage equality being “socially destructive”, showing how much the issue has lost its edge as a political wedge).
All these positive messages will be amplified on October 11th when Senator Sarah Hanson-Young calls attention to the Tasmanian motion in the Senate.
Coverage of the decision highlighted the irony of Tasmania being the first state to pass a marriage equality motion when it was the last state to decriminalise homosexuality. But as I’ve argued, Tassie is leading because of its history, not despite it.
What many Australians will not appreciate is the impact the marriage equality motion has had locally.
There was a strong media focus on marriage equality in the lead up to the motion, thanks to David Foster’s support for the issue, as well as the release of an opinion poll and a survey of the economic impact of reform.
The motion itself put Tassie in the national and global spotlight.
In turn, this has sparked an intense community debate in Tasmania with floods of talk back callers and letters to the editor. Local newspapers have published a wide variety of opinion pieces on the issue and have highlighted the views of their local MPs.
The motion has also prompted a wave of requests from community organisations seeking speakers on the issue. For example, tomorrow I will be in Launceston to speak on marriage equality and other reform issues at a Tasmanian community sector conference.
I’m heartened to see that other states are considering motions similar to Tassie’s. The more states pass them the stronger the message to Capitol Hill will be.
But even more important in the long term is the constructive local debate these motions foster. By removing marriage equality from the distant world of national politics and giving it a local angle, motions in state parliament make the issue more relevant to a wider range of people than ever before.