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Australia votes to legalize same-sex marriage

More than 12.5 million Australians took part in a non-binding postal vote to decide whether or not same-sex marriage should be legalized. The results were overwhelming, with 61.6 per cent of respondents voting in favour of legislation by Christmas.

The vote took a long eight weeks, with the results announced Wednesday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.¬†Australians were asked the following question:¬†“Should the marriage law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” Participation in this survey was voluntary, which is why the 79.5 per cent response rate was shocking.

The survey, which participants had to mail to their representatives, took place because there were twi previous failed attempts by the government to hold a national vote. The debate has been controversial, with many Coalition party members being whipped into voting against the legislation. Instead of holding a national vote, the government created a loophole and spent $122 million sending out voluntary surveys to all residents in order to gauge public opinion.

A bill was introduced to the Senate on Wednesday and will be up for discussion and amendments. Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has said that he will support the public’s preferences and hopes to get the bill passed before the New Year.

“[Australians had] spoken in the millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality,” Turnbull said at a press conference. “They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love. And now it is up to us here in the parliament of Australia to get on with it, to get on with the job the Australian people asked us to do and get this done.”

Those opposed to same-sex marriage may try to tack on an amendment that will enact “religious freedom protection” for commercial businesses who oppose same-sex marriage, but Turnbull said there is little change an amendment like that would pass.

As the results were announced, hundreds, if not thousands, of people flooded the streets, waving rainbow flags, singing, dancing, and hugging their partners. While the vote isn’t binding, it proves with incredible clarity that the Australian people want this change in legislation. If the government ignores this vote, there is bound to be backlash.

Same-sex marriage was banned in Australia in 2004 when the Marriage Act was amended to define the union as being between a man and a woman. The government has received a lot of pressure to change the Act, especially after Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.

What do you think? Will the government pass the bill or will amendments cause delays?