Saturday’s Tasmanian Upper House election was a win for marriage equality.
The issue was prominent because last year the Upper House narrowly defeated a bid to make Tasmania the first to allow same-sex marriages.
Three of the seats where the sitting member voted “no” back then, were up for election.
While opponents of the Same-Sex Marriage Bill have been returned in all three electorates, this shouldn’t obscure the fact that the popular vote was on the side of reform.
Across the state, over 51% of votes were cast for candidates who didn’t oppose reform. Opponents of reform only received 48%.
The effect was especially strong in the Hobart seat of Nelson, where campaigning on the issue was most concentrated.
The three challenging candidates, who all strongly identified themselves as marriage equality supporters, stripped away 20% of anti-equality MP, Jim Wilkinson’s, previous vote.
His primary vote plummeted from 61% to 48% forcing him to accept preferences from other candidates to get over the line.
The take-home message for Wilkinson is that his voters want him to support the Same-Sex Marriage Bill. He certainly has no mandate to continue to oppose it.
Of course, marriage equality wasn’t the only issue in this election, but it figured more prominently than in any Australian election until now.
In socially-progressive Nelson it was a top-of-mind issue for many voters following large-scale pro-equality leafletting and several popular marriage equality community events.
The popular vote for marriage equality is even more impressive given what what reformers were battling against.
There was a massive fear campaign from opponents of reform. There is a strong trend towards the Liberals in every electorate in Australia at the moment. There is little engagement with Tasmanian Upper House elections and incumbents are barely held to account and rarely voted out.
Despite all this, Tasmanian voters showed they really do care about their state leading the way to marriage equality.
Some people have spoken about this Upper House election as a referendum on marriage equality.
With so many issues and candidates involved, I’m loath to see it that way.
But if that’s what you insist on calling it, then the referendum was a win for marriage equality, especially in Nelson.
Following this election the number of votes for and against the Same-Sex Marriage Bill remains unchanged - eight against and six in favour.
But the popular vote inspires me to keep on campaigning for reform.