Bill Allowing Same-Sex Marriage Passed in Australian Parliament
Same-sex marriage campaigners cheer during rally outside Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.
Same-sex marriage campaigners cheer during rally outside Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.(Photo: AP)

Bill Allowing Same-Sex Marriage Passed in Australian Parliament

The Australian Parliament voted on 7 December, Thursday to allow same-sex marriage across the nation, following a bitter and divisive debate settled by the government polling voters in a much-criticised ballot survey that strongly endorsed change.

The public gallery of the House of Representatives erupted with applause when the bill passed to change the definition of marriage from solely between a man and a woman to "a union of two people" excluding all others. The legislation passed with a majority that wasn't challenged, although five lawmakers registered their opposition to the bill.

The Senate passed the same legislation last week 43 votes to 12. After royal assent and other formalities, the law will likely take effect in about a month, with the first weddings expected about a month later.

Amendments meant to safeguard freedoms of speech and religion for gay-marriage opponents were all rejected, though those issues may be considered later. The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage is a reality in Australia.

It is now our job as members of Parliament to pass a fair bill that does not extend or create any new discriminations. It is a strong bill that already strikes the right balance between equality and freedom of religion.
Government Lawmaker Warren Entsch

"It's a historic day for Australia, and I think the celebrations around the country when we finally ... achieve marriage equality are going to be immense," Janet Rice said before the vote. Rice is a minor Greens party senator, who was only able to remain married to her transgender wife of 31 years, Penny, because Penny remained listed as male on her birth certificate.

Penny Wong, an opposition Labor Party senator, who has two children with her lesbian partner, said: "I am feeling happy."

Gay marriage was endorsed by 62 percent of Australian voters who responded to the government-commissioned postal ballot.

Several gay marriage opponents in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative coalition have regarded marriage equality as inevitable, and have welcomed an end to an issue that has long divided the government ranks.

The result is a political win for Turnbull, who became Prime Minister after deposing Abbott in 2015 in an internal government leadership ballot.

Veteran gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome said he expected the first same-sex weddings in Australia would not take place until February.

The law will likely take effect after a month. State laws then require couples to give 28 days' notice of their intention to marry, Croome said.

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