Tasmania has voted ‘yes’ to same-sex marriage, 20 years after it became the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality.
While 61.6 per cent of Australians voted ‘yes’ and 38.4 per cent ‘no’, Tasmania’s ‘yes’ vote exceeded the national average, with 63.6 per cent of us voting ‘yes’ and 36.4 per cent voting ‘no’.
At Hobart’s Cascade Hotel on Wednesday morning, prominent marriage equality advocate Rodney Croome, the face of the ‘yes’ campaign in Tasmania, anxiously awaited the 10am results of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ same-sex marriage postal survey.
ABS chief statistician David Kalisch took his time in delivering the announcement in a live television broadcast, as Mr Croome and those gathered at the hotel watched intently.
When Mr Kalisch finally read out the results, a cry of “yes!” rung out.
The sound of Mr Kalisch’s voice as he offered a more detailed run-down of the results was drowned out by a tide of jubilation.
Soon, the TV was muted so that Mr Croome could deliver a stump speech.
“I’m prouder today to be an Australian than I have ever been. Prouder, as well, to be a Tasmanian,” he said.
I’m prouder today to be an Australian than I have ever been. Prouder, as well, to be a Tasmanian.Rodney Croome
“[Tasmanians] have had conversations with their families, with their friends, about why marriage equality matters.
“Those are conversations in Tasmania that have been going on for years.
“I’m here to say, proudly, that Tasmania’s result was above the national average.”
Mr Croome said this was significant for the state.
“We were equal third in the national tally, which, I think, should put to bed forever the myth that Tasmania is backward,” he said.
“We have sent a message … to the nation … that we will never return to the dark days of hate and homophobia.”
Mr Croome alluded to the fact that the debate was not over.
“We do not need in marriage equality legislation any further so-called protections or restrictions,” he said.
“Australians have voted for full equality.
“We have voted to rejoin that company of nations that values equality for all their citizens.”
At a Coalition for Marriage event across town, a much more solemn atmosphere prevailed.
Spokeswoman Karen Dickson said the group, which spearheaded the ‘no’ campaign, was “disappointed” with the result.
“We acknowledge the result that was handed down today,” she said, speaking at the Catholic Diocesan Centre at New Town.
“But we need to also acknowledge that 40 per cent of Australians demonstrated that they have concerns about a change to the marriage law and specifically how that relates to changes to their freedoms.
“We need to continue to represent at least 40 per cent of the nation, who have ongoing concerns about the freedoms that may well change as a result of today’s decision being handed down.”
Ms Dickson said Australia needed to remain cognisant of “parental rights”.
“We only need to look at what’s happened in … the United Kingdom, where, only recently, a social work student was evicted from his course because he put on social media that he did not support same-sex marriage,” she said.
“So, we know that these things are playing out.
“We do not want to see that take place in Australia.”
Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous said “a change in civil law does not change the Catholic understanding of the nature of marriage”.
“We pray for … the members of the Australian parliament, that they will respect the rights and freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion for all in Australia,” he said.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz was also disappointed by the result.
“The decision by the Australian people reflected in the postal survey is a decision that I regret but respect,” he said.
“Protecting fundamental freedoms - freedoms such as parental rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and conscientious objection - will be vital to alleviate the valid concerns of millions of Australians.”
Braddon Labor MP Justine Keay said she was “proud” that people on both sides of the debate in her electorate had “conducted themselves in a respectful way”.
“Labor … has ensured that the consensus legislation that will be put to the parliament will protect religious freedom,” she said.
Premier Will Hodgman welcomed the ‘yes’ result via Twitter.
“Very happy Australia has said ‘yes’,” he wrote.
Very happy Australia has said “yes”. Now same sex couples will be able to celebrate a wedding anniversary like Nicky and I have this week. That’s fair!— Will Hodgman MP (@WillHodgman) November 15, 2017
“Now same sex couples will be able to celebrate a wedding anniversary like [my wife] Nicky and I have this week. That’s fair!”
Opposition Leader Rebecca White was also thrilled by the news.
“Tasmanians have spoken ... and the federal parliament now needs to get on with it and deliver historic reform, as [Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull has pledged, before Christmas,” she said.