After almost two decades of conservative views on marriage, the Australian Parliament on Thursday finally decided to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.
The decision came just three weeks following a national referendum showing a strong public clamor for gay marriage to be legalized in Australia. Although the official votes were not formally tallied, it was seen in the chamber at 130 to 140 MPs said yes. Only four MPs voted against the legalization while a handful of MPs including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott had abstained.
Penned by Senator Dean Smith, the bill passed through the House of Representatives with no substantive amendments, three weeks after it was revealed that 62 percent of Australian said “yes” to the national survey.
During the proclamation, the audience outside the plenary hall and in some public spaces began singing the famous “I Am Australian” anthem. Some lawmakers have been seen wiping tears from their eyes while looking up at the gallery.
The New York Times reported that the new same-sex marriage law expands on earlier legislation that provided equality to same-sex couples. Such benefits include government employment and taxes support. It was also reported that the definition of marriage has been changed from “the union of a man and a woman” to “the union of two people” which means the country will also recognize same-sex marriages done from other countries.
The campaign for marriage equality in Australia had been seen to be speedier over the past two years, following its legalization in some countries like the United States and Ireland.
Founder of Freedom to Marry Evan Wolfson after the announcement said the legalization was a big victory not only for the LGBTQ community but also those who have been supporting LGBTQ rights in general. He added that it is an affirmation to the dignity of gay people in another country and will surely reverberate in the lives of the people across Australia. Freedom to Marry is the organization that led the campaign for marriage equality in the United States.
With this development, Australia became the 26th country to legalize same-sex unions. After the decision was handed down, Australians and LGBTQ rights supporters alike took to their social media platform to show delight and support.
Present in this historic moment were several well-known gay and lesbian personalities including Olympian Ian Thorpe and actress Magda Szubanski. Earlier today, Szubanski said she and other older LGBTQ people never thought they would see this event.
“When we were young, it would have been zero per cent of people who would have voted for marriage equality. It was inconceivable – but today, Australia, you’ve demonstrated you love us. We love you.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before casting the final vote declared today is going to be a “great day” in Australian history.
“It’s time for more marriages, more commitment, more love, more respect. This belongs to us all. This is Australia – fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect for every one of us. This is a great day – it belongs to every Australian.”