It’s official: Australia’s Parliament has passed same-sex marriage
Australia’s parliament has legalised same-sex marriage, passing a bill to allow two people, regardless of sex, to marry.
The motion was approved almost unanimously by the House of Representatives, after passing the upper chamber last week.
The move comes after almost 13 million Australians (79.5%) voted in the country’s non-binding postal ballot to endorse the law.
Australia is now the 25th country in the world to have marriage equality for same-sex couples.
“What a day for love, for quality, for respect,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“Australia has done it.”
The final legislative victory follows years of activism and a three-month community campaign by the Equality Campaign.
13 years ago Australia changed the law to explicitly outlaw same-sex marriages.
The author of the cross-party bill, the Liberal senator Dean Smith, told ABC News the passage of marriage equality was “a measure of what can be done when people put some of their partisan politics behind”.
The Equality Campaign said: “This Bill ensures every LGBTI Australian will now be treated equally with the same dignity and respect as their fellow Australians and will be able to marry the person they love.
“We would like to thank the tens of thousands of Australians who tirelessly volunteered across the nation.
“We achieved this because of you. Today is your day.
“To the many LGBTI Australians who have gone before us – thank you. The YES Campaign salutes you and we are eternally grateful for the path you paved, the path that enables us to be here today. Today is in your honour.
“To every young LGBTI Australian across the nation, today ensures there will never be a question about whether you can have the same dreams, aspirations and opportunities as your brothers, sisters and friends.
“For those who have waited months, years or decades to finally have the chance to marry, it’s now your time.
“This has been a tough road for LGBTI Australians, their families and friends. However, achieving marriage equality today enables us to move forward stronger and more resilient, knowing that no Australian has to ever live through this experience again.
“We thank the millions of Australians who voted YES and we want to assure every Australian who didn’t that marriage equality will take from no-one and simply make our nation a kinder, fairer and more inclusive place to live.
“Today we celebrate that finally the law recognises what we always knew: our lives and relationships have the same value and worth. We are equal.
“We did this together, be proud.”
Jacqui Tomlins, spokeswoman for Rainbow Families, told Guardian Australia it “has been a massive journey for us and our family” to marriage equality.
“This is the end of a journey that has been bookended with two pieces of legislation: one that put discrimination in and one that will take the discrimination out,” she said.
The bill includes exemptions for registered religious celebrants, who can refuse to marry same-sex couples on the basis of their faith.
Some conservative politicians had sought to extend exemptions to others, such as non-religious celebrants and businesses, but those proposals failed.
The historic popular vote last month follows in the footsteps of Ireland by endorsing same-sex marriage at the ballot box.
12,727,920 people responded to the survey with a response rate of 79 percent.
Yes responses represented 61.6 percent of responses with 38.4 percent voting No.
Higher turnout with older participants and lower with younger participants, but “not markedly so”.
There were emotional scenes as parliament debated the move, with MPs breaking down in tears as they gave their reasons for backing equality.
A gay MP even proposed to his long-term partner during a debate.
Tim Wilson, a Liberal MP, fought back tears as he popped the question to boyfriend Ryan Bolger in the country’s House of Representatives.
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The occasion was the first time an MP has proposed on the floor of the House.
The Speaker recorded the moment for Hansard – including noting that his partner had said “yes” from the gallery.
The first weddings are now expected to take place in time for Christmas.