Australia legalises same-sex marriage with landslide vote

Celebrations as country joins 25 other nations that recognise marriage equality

Australia became the 26th nation to legalise same-sex marriage on Thursday (December 7), a watershed moment for a country where some states held homosexual activity to be illegal until twenty years ago.

 

Australia became the 26th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage after a Bill to do so was passed almost unanimously through parliament just before 6pm local time (7am Irish time).

Marriage equality supporters in the parliament’s public gallery sang the chorus of the Seekers song I Am Australian – “We’ll share a dream and sing with one voice, I am, you are, we are Australian” – after the vote passed.

In the 150-seat parliament there were only four No votes, three from the ruling Liberal-National coalition and one Independent.

The legislation was brought to parliament through the upper house, following a non-compulsory, non-binding postal survey in which 61.6 per cent of people voted Yes.

The Bill passed the senate last week, before moving to the lower house on Monday. More than 100 MPs spoke on the Bill, which delayed its passing until Thursday, the final sitting day before the long summer break.

Its passage was further delayed through numerous attempts by conservatives to add amendments for religious protections from the law, but they all failed and the Bill passed unamended.

The attorney general, George Brandis, said marriage equality will be the “imperishable legacy” of this government under prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Tim Wilson, a Liberal MP who proposed to his long-term partner Ryan during a speech in parliament earlier this week, said “there is no day that I am more proud to be Australian than today.

“Not only did you see the parliament at its best, you also saw the nation at its finest. When people came together and made the case for change, and the beauty of this outcome is that everybody owns the result.”

Opponents

One of those who voted against the legislation, Queensland MP Keith Pitt, said he did not support the Bill because “I believe it does not adequately address the concerns of many in my electorate around religious freedoms, parental choice and the right for parents to raise their children as they see fit”.

Another Queensland MP who voted against the Bill, the Independent Bob Katter, said during the debate that “we have an extraordinary incidence of homosexual behaviour in Australia compared with other nations, and I think the people who have been speaking for this Bill would agree with me on that.”

The law will come into effect in the new year. With a 28-day notice period to get married, it will be late January before Australia sees its first same-sex marriage under federal legislation.

In December 2013, same-sex marriage was very briefly legal in the Australian Capital Territory. Thirty-one couples, including Dublin man Stephen Dawson and his partner Dennis Liddelow, got married in the five days before the federal government overturned and annulled all the gay marriages carried out in that time.

Those couples are now seeking an apology for suffering “an indignity no Australian should have experienced”.