Australia’s overcome a hurdle on the long road to marriage equality — but the fight’s not over.
The country has just voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a non-binding, non-compulsory nationwide postal survey.
Australia’s High Court handed down a decision in September to allow the federal government to implement the $122 million postal plebiscite asking the question: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
The survey results have been one of the most anticipated decisions in Australia, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics announcing the final result on Wednesday, with the “Yes” vote winning by a mile.
Of the eligible Australians, the majority indicated that the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, with 7,817,247 (61.6 percent) responding “Yes” and 4,873,987 (38.4 percent) responding “No.”
Nearly eight out of 10 eligible Australians (79.5 percent) expressed their view. All states and territories recorded a majority Yes response.
The results come after a lengthy, heated campaign from both the “Yes” and “No” camps, which attracted the attention of international celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, John Oliver, Elton John and Sam Smith.
Major corporations like Twitter, Apple and Google also put their hat in the ring, making either sentimental or financial pledges of support toward the “Yes” vote. Should the country’s parliament pass a bill legalising same-sex marriage, it would join 25 other countries, including the U.S., Argentina, and New Zealand.
So, now what?
Australia’s postal survey was non-binding, so now it’s the government’s turn.
There’ll be an official vote in Australian Parliament before the end of the year, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has publicly declared his intention to vote for legalising same-sex marriage in parliament, after voting “Yes” in the plebiscite.
Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, has also pledged his intention to vote yes, as has the leader of the Greens party, Richard Di Natale.
So, what will the same-sex marriage bill actually look like?
The government is balancing two bills right now.
Liberal senator Dean Smith has proposed a cross-party marriage equality bill, which has been praised by the Prime Minister as a good starting point, with ample discrimination protection for same-sex couples.
Turnbull has slammed a proposed alternative bill, cooked up by Liberal senator James Paterson, which would legalise same-sex marriage but also enable discrimination against same-sex weddings.
Turnbull has said that a free vote would be allowed to Coalition members on the bills, and senators will decide which bill to tackle first, which should be before the end of the year.
Whatever the government decides, LGBTQ people in Australia should feel, for the first time in years, a strong base of support from the Australian public.
It’s about bloody time.