Australians Back Gay Marriage, Govt Promises Bill by Christmas

If the legislation is passed, Australia will become the 26th nation to legalise same sex marriages. 

2 min read
People celebrate after the announcement of the same-sex marriage postal survey result in front of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, on 15 November 2017.

Australians supported gay marriage in a postal survey that ensures Parliament will consider legalising same-sex weddings this year.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said on 15 November that 62 percent of registered adults who responded had voted for the reform in an unprecedented two-month survey.

Although the vote in non-binding on the government, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government will seek to pass legislation to legalise same-sex marriage by the end of the year after a majority of voters supported the move in a non-compulsory survey.

The Australian people have tasked us to get this done. This year, before Christmas - that must be our commitment.
Malcolm Turnbull, Australian Prime Minister

Australia will become the 26th nation to formalise the unions if the legislation is passed by parliament, which is expected despite some vocal opposition within the government's conservative right wing.

Thousands of people in a central Sydney park broke into a loud cheer, hugged and cried as Australia's chief statistician revealed live over a big screen that 61.6 percent of voters surveyed favoured marriage equality, with 38.4 percent against.

In Australia, almost 80 percent of more than 16 million registered voters posted in ballots, despite gay marriage opponents describing it as a boutique issue that did not interest most of the public.

Gay rights advocates had opposed the non-binding 100 million Australian dollar ($76 million) survey as an unnecessary obstacle to achieving equality.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee last week criticized 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.

In 2015, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a same-sex marriage opponent, committed his conservative government to holding a compulsory nationwide vote to decide whether the unions should be legal.

He was replaced weeks later by current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who supports marriage equality and opposed the public vote but eventually agreed to it in a deal with party powerbrokers.

Several government lawmakers, on 13 November, released a draft gay marriage bill that critics argue would diminish current protections for gays against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

Turnbull on 14 November ruled out downgrading anti-discrimination laws.

Ireland is the only other country in the world to put the divisive issue to a popular vote.

In Ireland, 61 percent of registered voters turned out for a referendum in 2015 and 62 percent of those voted to change the constitution to allow marriage equality.

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