The Parliament of Tasmania may pass equal marriage laws for the island’s gay couples after the Australian state’s premier announced support for the move.

Premier Lara Giddings supported a motion to that effect at the Australian Labor Party conference for the state of Tasmania at the weekend.

Ms Giddings said: “This was a last area of discrimination that was left, and we fundamentally believe that it’s wrong that people do not have the same choices in life that the rest of us take for granted when it comes to marriage.

“The time has now come for marriage equality to be part of our community.”

The Australian Labor Party and Greens control 15 of the 25 seats in the Australian parliament’s House of Assembly. The Liberals control the remaining 10. The parliament endorsed marriage equality in a vote in September last year.

Now, legislation to enact it at the state level will be brought forward if the private members bills aiming for equal marriage in the federal parliament fail, a result which is expected.

Legal advice, according to Australian reports, suggests that a state should be able to define marriage at that level.

At the state parliament, the Greens already support marriage equality in the lower house, but the outcome in the upper house, which consists of 13 independent members is harder to predict.

Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said: “The fact that, for the first time ever, we may have legal same-sex marriages on Australian soil, will build pressure for the federal parliament to act and be an incentive for other states to follow Tasmania.

“Same-sex couples married in Tasmania will demand recognition from the federal government and their own state government increasing the momentum for reform.

“Same-sex couples marrying in Tasmania will also show the rest of the nation that the sky doesn’t fall just because two people of the same sex declare their love and commitment.”

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson, Rodney Croome, said there has been an “overwhelming response” to yesterday’s announcement.

“In the last 24 hours the response to Lara Gidding’s announcement from same-sex couples and their families across the state and the nation has been overwhelming, with emails pouring in asking ‘when can we marry?’.

“Overnight, Tasmania has become a beacon of hope for hundreds of thousands of Australians.

“Tasmania has changed profoundly since it was the last state to decriminalise homosexuality in 1997 and we will welcome the thousands of same-sex couples from other states who want to marry in Australia rather than fly to North America or Europe to wed.

“Marrying heterosexual couples will also be more likely to marry in a place where marriage is defined by love and commitment, not by who it excludes.”

Robert Mallett, Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Small Business Council said the island state could benefit “to the tune of $100 million if it adopts the principle of same sex marriage and is the first state to do so.”