MLC moves to reopen SSM debate

CONSTITUTIONAL advice which has reopened the same-sex marriage debate in Tasmania should not be dismissed as just another legal opinion, the Legislative Council has heard.

Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest moved this morning to reopen debate on the defeated Same Sex Marriage Bill, in light of recent reports on the validity of such laws.

If the motion is accepted, the legislation will be put back on the Legislative Council notice paper to be debated before the end of the year.

Ms Forrest said advice provided by High Court lawyer Bret Walker SC, who she said had been regarded in Tasmanian Parliament as Australia's preeminent expert on constitutional law, deserved to be properly considered.

Mr Walker said that the proposed Tasmanian legislation established a different class of marriage and did not conflict with the Commonwealth Marriage Act. He said the ACT laws, now subject to a High Court challenge, were less robust and less constitutionally sound.

Ms Forrest said given that many MLCs said they opposed the legislation because of constitutional concerns, they had a duty to reconsider it now given the new advice and progress worldwide in marriage equality since last year's debate.

"Supporting this motion is an acknowledgement of the immense change that has taken place since we last considered this issue," she said.

"Even if members do not change their views, they should use debate to explain to their constituents why they remain unconvinced."

Ms Forrest urged MLCs not to see it as a debate along political lines, and said it was as much about proving the integrity of the Legislative Council as about granting marriage equality.

"Supporting this motion shows that this chamber accepts new evidence which is on offer, that the chamber acknowledges social change when it occurs, and that this chamber cares enough about social justice and equality to reconsider serious issues," she said.

The debate is expected to continue all day.

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