Australians decisively support same-sex marriage

Written By: BBC/Hunja Macharia
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Australians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic poll.

The non-binding postal vote showed 61.6% of people favour allowing same-sex couples to wed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

Jubilant supporters have been celebrating in public spaces, waving rainbow flags and singing and dancing.

The issue only went to a voluntary postal vote after a long and bitter debate about changing the law.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government would now aim to pass legislation in parliament by Christmas.

“[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality,” Mr Turnbull said after the result was announced.

“They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love.”

The result on Wednesday brings an end to what was at times a heated campaign. The vote itself had been criticised by same-sex marriage supporters, many of whom said it was unnecessary when parliament could debate the issue directly.

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The survey was voluntary, unlike Australia’s compulsory elections.

More than 12.7 million people – about 79.5% of eligible voters – took part in the eight-week poll, which asked one question: “Should the marriage law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

The Yes campaign argued that it was a debate about equality. The No campaign put the focus on the definition of family, raising concerns about how issues like gender will be taught in schools.

Australia’s chief statistician David Kalisch said about 7.8 million people voted in support of same-sex marriage, with approximately 4.9 million against it.

He said participation was higher than 70% in 146 of Australia’s 150 electorates. All but 17 electorates supported changing the law.

“This is outstanding for a voluntary survey and well above other voluntary surveys conducted around the world,” Mr Kalisch said.

“It shows how important this issue is to many Australians.”

After months of divisive debate, Australia now has a result to confirm what most people here already knew – that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.

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The campaign turned ugly at times, with graffiti on walls and shouting matches at public meetings.

But now both sides have to move on. For the Yes campaign that means pressing the government to stick to its pledge of passing the law.

For the No campaign, it means lobbying over the wording of that legislation, and arguing for legal protection for those who continue to oppose gay marriage.

While today will see parties in the streets and rainbow flags flying high, both sides know their battle is far from over.

Mr Turnbull, a strong same-sex marriage supporter, is facing debate within his government over what the parliamentary bill should include.

Some conservative MPs want it to contain exemptions that would allow businesses opposed to same-sex marriage to refuse goods and services for weddings.

But matters are complicated: two government politicians have proposed introducing separate bills to parliament to legislate same-sex marriage.

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One bill, by Senator Dean Smith, has broad support from opposition parties and many members of the government, including Mr Turnbull.

An alternative bill, suggested by Senator James Paterson, has drawn support from more conservative MPs who say it provides stronger religious protections.

 

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