LGBT rights in Tasmania

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LGBT rights in Tasmania
Tasmania (Australia)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1994 (federal law)
Legal since 1997 (state law)
Gender identity/expression Yes (both state and federal law)
Discrimination protections Yes (under state and federal law)
Family rights
Recognition of
Registered relationships since 2003; same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions recognised since 2010.
Adoption Yes

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Australian state of Tasmania have most of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts - with the notable exception of access to marriage for same-sex couples. Tasmania's law reforms since the 1990s with respect to LGBT rights have been described as perhaps the most extensive and noteworthy in the world.[1]

Laws regarding homosexuality[edit]

Sodomy was originally outlawed throughout the island from the time of British settlement. The law was retained post federation as in all other Australian jurisdictions. The last man to hang for sodomy in the British Empire was in Tasmania in 1867. In the subsequent hundred years Tasmania had the highest rate of imprisonment for private consenting male sex anywhere in the world.[2]

Toonen case[edit]

Main article: Toonen v. Australia

For several years in the 1980s, the Tasmanian Parliament refused to pass laws decriminalising private same-sex sexual acts,[3] resulting in a local resident (Nicholas Toonen) bringing a human rights complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, resulting in the committee ruling in Toonen's favour. The Committee noted that "the criminalisation of homosexual practices cannot be considered a reasonable means or proportionate measure to achieve the aim of preventing the spread of AIDS/HIV," further noting that "The Australian Government observes that statutes criminalising homosexual activity tend to impede public health programmes by driving underground many of the people at the risk of infection."[4]


In response to the Tasmanian Parliament’s refusal to repeal the offending laws, the Federal government passed the Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994 - Section 4,[5] legalising sexual activity between consenting adults throughout Australia and prohibiting the making of laws that arbitrarily interfere with the sexual conduct of adults in private. In 1997 in the case of Croome v Tasmania, Croome applied to the High Court of Australia for a ruling as to whether the Tasmanian laws were inconsistent with the Federal Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act. The Tasmanian Government repealed the relevant Criminal Code provisions after failing in its attempts to have the matter struck out.[6] As a result, it was in May 1997 that Tasmania repealed its anti-homosexuality laws.[7] The age of consent in Tasmania is 17 years and is equal for both heterosexual forms of sex and homosexual forms of sex.[8]

Expungement proposal[edit]

In December 2015, the Tasmanian Liberal Government announced it would introduce legislation in the Tasmanian Parliament which would expunge historic criminal records for consensual homosexual sexual activity. Individuals charged with offences pertaining to homosexual sexual conduct prior to its decriminalisation in 1997 will be able to submit an application with the state's Secretary of the Department of Justice to have such charges removed from their criminal records.[9] If passed by the Parliament in 2016, Tasmania would join four other Australian states and territories (New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory) in creating such an expungement scheme.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Tasmania's Relationships Act 2003 provided for registration and recognition of a type of registered partnership in two distinct categories: Significant Relationships and Caring Relationships. The same Act also amended 73 pieces of legislation to provide registered partners with nearly all of the rights offered to married couples within the state. Furthermore, since July 2009, these relationships are recognised at federal level, providing couples with almost all of the federal rights and benefits of marriage. The legislation came into effect on 1 January 2004. In September 2010, the Parliament of Tasmania approved legislation to recognise same-sex unions performed outside Tasmania as significant relationships.[10][11][12][13]

Significant and caring relationships[edit]

Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can register a Significant Relationship if both are unrelated, unmarried adults living in Tasmania.

Likewise, two adults residing in Tasmania, related or not, can register a Caring Relationship if one provides the other with domestic support and personal care. The parties cannot be married to each other, cannot be in an existing significant or caring relationship, and neither can be receiving payment for the care of the other either from employment or government departments.

Both types of relationships provide some rights in the following areas:[14]

  • Superannuation (pension/retirement benefits)
  • Taxation
  • Insurance
  • Health Care
  • Hospital Visitation
  • Wills
  • Property Division
  • Employment Conditions (such as parenting and bereavement leave)

Applications for Significant or Caring Relationships can be registered in person or by mail by filing an application for a Deed of Relationship with the Tasmanian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Hobart.

Recognition from other jurisdictions[edit]

Since being elected in 2007, the then current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, had been encouraging all states to create relationship registers identical to Tasmania's model in order to create nationwide uniformity and consistent rights, while at the same time not supporting anything that appears too similar to marriage. The following jurisdictions currently recognise Tasmanian registered partnerships since 2012: ACT, NSW, QLD & VIC

The Australian Commonwealth Government also recognises a Tasmanian registered partnership as a "de facto relationship" under federal law. De facto couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, are entitled to nearly all of the federal rights of marriage since 1 July 2009.

In September 2010, the Tasmanian parliament passed legislation to recognise out-of-state same-sex unions as a significant relationships.[10][11][12][13] In November 2014, New South Wales became the second state in Australia (after Tasmania) to recognise international same-sex marriages within the NSW relationship register.[15]

Attempts at legalising same-sex marriage[edit]

In August 2012 Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings announced that Tasmania would pass new laws allowing same-sex couples to marry.[16] However, although the same-sex marriage bill passed 13-11 in the lower house, the Legislative Council rejected the bill 6-8 on 27 September 2012.[17] In December 2013, the Australian Capital Territory's Same Sex Marriage legislation was declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia due to inconsistency with the federal Marriage Act 1961. This may mean that the state parliaments do not have the legal capacity to legislate for same-sex marriage even if they wanted to.[18] In November 2015, the lower house of Parliament passed a mostly bipartisan motion calling on the federal parliament to legalise same-sex marriage nationwide.[19]

Marriage equality motion conscience vote[edit]

On November 19, 2015, the lower house of the Parliament of Tasmania, passed a motion by a vote of 15-9, calling on the federal government, to pass the Marriage Equality Bill 2015, based on a conscience vote.[20][21][22][23] Both Western Australia and New South Wales also passed a similar motion. On August 9, 2016 the 15 member upper house of Tasmania (of mostly Independents) also passed a motion in favour of same-sex marriages.[24] The vote was 8-5.[25]

Motion wording:

1. Notes Members of the Tasmanian Legislative Assembly and community hold various views on the issue of marriage equality 2. Wishes our federal colleagues a respectful debate that is tolerant of all views 3. Notes the importance of MPs being free to express their own view and the views of their electorates on this issue

Adoption, surrogacy and parenting rights[edit]

Same-sex couples can be assessed to be adoptive parents of children relinquished by other people (this is known as the full joint adoption process). However, they may adopt their partner's child or children they already care for in some circumstances.[26]

Under the Status of Children Act 1974 (section 10C) [27] same-sex partners of women who give birth to children conceived through sperm donation, IVF or other artificial reproductive technology will be presumed to be the child's other parent or co-mother in the same way as male partners of heterosexual women since 1.1.2004 (when the Relationships Act 2003 [28] commenced). Lesbian co-mothers who went under IVF can have both female names on the birth cirtificate so they can access the same rights and duties for their children (such as medical or hospital forms, education processes, access to entitlements, etc.). The legislation on parentage from IVF is retrospective (meaning the laws apply for co-mothers even before the law went into effect) as currently in the rest of Australia at a state, territory and federal level.

Also under the Adoption Act 1988 (section 29) [29] for a birth-mother's same-sex partner to adopt any children she has through fertility treatment under the stepchild adoption provision.[26]

In 2012, Tasmania passed two pieces of legislation to legally allow altruistic surrogacy. The two laws are called the Surrogacy Act No 34 and the Surrogacy (Consequential Amendments) Act No 31[30][31] Proposed altruistic surrogacy legislation was drafted and passed by both houses of the Tasmanian parliament - only after a review of the Surrogacy Contracts Act 1993 No 4[32][33] and after an ongoing community consultation process. Under the altruistic surrogacy legislation, the surrogate must be at least 25 years old and it cannot be her first pregnancy. The new altruistic surrogacy laws went into effect on 1 May 2013.[30]

In 2013, Tasmania became the fourth jurisdiction in Australia to allow same-sex couples full joint adoption legal rights. Since 2015, Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory allow adoption equality for same-sex couples.[34][35]

Discrimination protections[edit]

The Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas) is a state law that prohibits ‘discrimination and other specified conduct’ (called ‘prohibited conduct’ in the Act) and provides ‘for the investigation and conciliation of, and inquiry into, complaints’ of discrimination and prohibited conduct.[36] The Act outlaws discrimination in Tasmania on a wide variety of attributes, including gender, lawful sexual activity, actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity.[37] In September 2013, the Act was amended to extend protections to transgender and intersex people, whilst also extending protections from offensive conduct to prohibit a person from offending, humiliating, intimidating, insulting or ridiculing another person on the basis of their actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity.[38]

Federal law also protects LGBTI people in Tasmania in the form of the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013.[39]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1997 for males; always for females)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination state laws for sexual orientation Yes
Anti-discrimination state laws for gender identity or expression Yes
Hate crime laws include sexual orientation No
Hate crime laws include gender identity or expression No
Gay sex criminal records expunged No (proposed)
Gay panic defence abolished Yes
Recognition in state law of same-sex couples as domestic partners Yes
Step adoption by same-sex couples Yes
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes
Automatic IVF/artificial insemination parenthood for female partners Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Same-sex marriages No (federal jurisdiction)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes (one year deferral - Australia-wide)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rodney Croome: A History of Gay Law Reform in Tasmania
  2. ^ Homosexuality in Tasmania
  3. ^ Homosexual law reform
  4. ^ Toonen v. Australia University of Minnesota
  5. ^ "Human Rights (Sexual Conduct) Act 1994 - Sect 4". Commonwealth Consolidated Acts. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  6. ^ Gus Bernardi (2001). "From conflict to convergence: the evolution of Tasmanian anti-discrimination law". Australian Journal of Human Rights. Retrieved 2009-06-25. Once standing was given the Tasmanian PLP Government did not wait for a High Court challenge and passed the Criminal Code Amendment Act 1997 which repealed the anti-gay provisions within the Tasmanian Criminal Code. 
  7. ^ Gay law reform in Australian States and territories
  8. ^ Age of consent laws in Australia: Government source
  9. ^ "Premier of Tasmania - Expunging historic homosexual convictions". 17 December 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Tasmania votes to recognise foreign same-sex marriages
  12. ^ a b "Tasmania to recognise same-sex marriage". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 
  13. ^ a b Tasmania moves on marriage
  14. ^ ""Relationships Act: The Tasmanian Approach"</". Partners Task Force for Gay and Lesbian Couples. 2006-04-03. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ The Age Tasmania is the logical 'first mover' on marriage equality 6 August 2012 Retrieved on 7 August 2012
  17. ^ Larkins, Damien. "Same-sex marriage voted down in Tasmania". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  18. ^ "Commonwealth v Australian Capital Territory [2013] HCA 55". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  19. ^ Tas parliament supports marriage equality
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ [3]
  22. ^ [4]
  23. ^ [5]
  24. ^ [6]
  25. ^ [7]
  26. ^ a b Relationships Tasmania
  27. ^ [8][dead link]
  28. ^ "Legislation View Page". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  29. ^ [9][dead link]
  30. ^ a b "Department of Premier and Cabinet - TASMANIA : Publications". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  31. ^ "Lara Giddings - Premier of Tasmania". 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  32. ^ "Surrogacy Contracts Act 1993". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  33. ^ "SURROGACY CONTRACTS ACT 1993". 1993-04-20. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  34. ^ Tasmanian Upper House passes gay adoption bill
  35. ^ Tasmania votes to allow same-sex couples to adopt
  36. ^ Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner
  37. ^ Text of the Act
  38. ^ New anti-discrimination laws for Tasmania
  39. ^ Australian Human Rights Commission

External links[edit]