The premiers of South Australia and Tasmania say that they will legislate to introduce same-sex marriage regardless of what Australian federal Prime Minister Julia Gillard or parliament does.

While there are two marriage equality bills before the federal parliament, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill told gay rights campaigners at a rally in Adelaide that he would introduce legislation to allow same-sex marriage at a state level.

Mr Weatherill said he would support a bill proposed by the Green Party, although he would give his own Labor MPs the choice of how to vote: “People should be entitled to express their own identity in any way they wish and the law shouldn’t become a barrier to prevent them from doing that.

“So, from my perspective, it’s a simple question of the dignity of the individual.

“People should be entitled to express their identity in any way they wish and the law shouldn’t get in the way”, he said.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings told a rally last week that her state would both be prepared for a
High Court challenge on marriage equality and legislate to introduce same-sex marriage:

“There is nothing that I have received in my legal advice that would preclude the state government from pursuing this matter and legalising marriage here in Tasmania.

“There’s far more legal advice out there … that will show you there’s in fact strong arguments as to why we can indeed do this”, she said.

The rallies, which took place yesterday afternoon in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Canberra and Newcastle, included mass illegal weddings, marches and the handing over of a petition against then Prime Minister John Howard’s 2004 ruling that prevented same-sex couples from being included in the Australian Marriage Act.

In June, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said it was possible to have a “relationship of love, commitment and trust and understanding that doesn’t need a marriage certificate associated with it”.

“That’s my life experience and so I’m speaking from that life experience.

“If you believe as I do that people can have deep and committed relationships without a marriage certificate, it becomes an issue about how are we going to deal with this cultural institution of long standing in Australian society?

“Are we going to try and change it to fit circumstances where people are in love and deeply committed but don’t fit the current Marriage Act, or are we going to grow up new traditions and norms that embrace that?”

Ms Gillard said she held the view “very deeply” that marriage should not be opened up to gay couples, but said it was “not for her” to tell Labor party members how to vote on the issue in parliament.