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Celebrations as Australians vote 'Yes' to same-sex marriage

By Natasha Chaku
Last updated on: November 15, 2017 12:01 IST
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Emotional embraces, tears of joy and an overwhelming message of equality washed over Australia after a majority of 61.6 per cent voted in favour of legalising gay marriage.

Thousands of ‘Yes’ advocates erupted at the designated areas throughout the country, including the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne and Prince Alfred Park in Sydney.

The onus will now be on politicians to pass a bill in parliament to legalise same-sex marriage, allowing Australia to join a host of other countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden and Canada who have already changed their marriage laws.  

IMAGE: 'Yes' voters erupted in celebrations across Australia after the postal survey returned results of 61.6 per cent in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Australians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic nationwide poll with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull voicing confidence that the Parliament will give it the force of law.

IMAGE: Rebecca Davies and her partner Paula Van Bruggen kiss as they celebrate in the crowd as the result is announced at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the nation for voting 'overwhelmingly "Yes" for marriage equality, for fairness, for commitment and for love'. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday announced the astounding result of the two-month postal survey on same-sex marriage with 61.6 per cent of people voting ‘yes’ and 38.4 per cent voted ‘no’ in the postal survey.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a vocal advocate of marriage equality, called on lawmakers to heed the “overwhelming” result and to commit to legislate for gay marriage before Christmas.

“It is our job now to get on with it, and get this done,” the prime minister said today shortly after ABS declared the survey result.

“I say to all Australians, whatever your views on this issue may be, we must respect the voice of the people. We asked them for their opinion and they have given it to us. It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming,” he said. 

IMAGE: Emotional embraces, tears of joy and an overwhelming message of equality has washed over the nation after months of debate, abuse and pain. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

Every state and territory recorded over 60 per cent ‘yes’ result except New South Wales, which recorded 57.8 per cent approval.

Of 12.7 million people who took part in the survey, 7.8 million voted ‘yes’ and 4.9 million said ‘no’.

Parliamentary debate to legalise same-sex marriage could begin as early as Thursday.

IMAGE: Champagne, bubbles and confetti covered the skies across the nation's majority cities as parties kick off to celebrate the historic moment. The Australian Capital Territory led the way for the 'Yes' campaign, with a monumental 74 per cent in favour of same-sex marriage. Victoria was second with 64.9 per cent, with Western Australia third at 63.7 per cent. New South Wales was the only state or territory not to have a 60 per cent or higher majority of 'Yes' votes, with 57.8 per cent in favour of legalising gay marriage. Of the 150 Federal Electoral Divisions, 133 registered a majority 'Yes'. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

A cross-party group of senators -- led by Liberal Dean Smith and supported by senior Labour figure Penny Wong, amongst others -- will introduce a private bill to the upper house on Wednesday afternoon.

Thousands of same-sex marriage supporters celebrated the ‘Yes’ result by waving rainbow flags and hugging each other at mass gatherings organised across the nation.

IMAGE: The result of the voluntary survey is not binding but puts pressure on MPs to approve changed marriage laws. Parliamentary debate to legalise same-sex marriage could begin as early as Thursday.Photograph: Melanie Burton/Reuters

The Equality Campaign described the result as resounding and historic.

“This happened because millions of Australians reached out to our own families, neighbourhoods, organisations -- to stand up for equality, stand by our loved ones and share why YES was so important,” spokesman Alex Greenwich said in a statement.

“Parliament still has to pass Australia’s unequivocal mandate for equality into law. And you can be sure we’ll hold them to that -- we expect a timely vote on a fair and simple bill, this year,” he said.

IMAGE: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the result as a 'fabulous day to be an Australian'. 'Australians have voted for a generous view of themselves, for a modern Australia, where diversity is accepted, supported and respected,' he told a marriage equality rally in Melbourne. Photograph: Steven Saphore/Reuters

The high turnout and unequivocal result amounted to a rebuke for Australia’s most conservative politicians, many of whom saw a majority of their constituents vote to support same-sex marriage despite their arguments against it.

 The UN Human Rights Committee last week criticised Australia for putting gays and lesbians “through an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll.” The committee called on Australia to legislate for marriage equality regardless of the survey’s outcome. 

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Natasha Chaku
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