On Wednesday, November 15, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that 61.6% of the Australian population voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The voluntary survey conducted by postal mail was announced in August 2017, with 79.5% of the population voting in total.
The Australian Senate had one week to make same-sex marriage legal before they left for a break. The upper house of the Senate put aside any other government issues so they can focus on this bill. Anti same-sex marriage advocates attempted to push for protections for free speech, religious rights, and parental rights. Eric Abetz, the liberal senator of the state of Tasmania, publicly praised the “No Voters” and called them “decent Australians.” According to News.com, senator Abetz also warned Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about legalizing same-sex marriage: “To deliberately alienate 38 percent of the population is never wise.”
Some members of the LGBTQ community didn’t want the vote in the first place, originally hating the idea of the survey since the beginning. CNN interviewed two members of the community––Jacob Holman and his husband Damien O’Meara––that shared this belief: “We didn’t want the vote in the first place but we are so happy to have this win for our friends and the whole community.” Holman and O’Meara expressed their feelings against the national vote. Many people in the LGBTQ feel that their fate should not be decided by a poll.
A breakthrough for Australians and the LGBTQ community occurred on November 28 when the bill to make same-sex marriage legal in Australia passed through the Senate. Forty-three members of the senate voted ‘yes’ while twelve voted ‘no.’ Senators Bridget McKenzie, James McGrath, and Pauline Hanson did not cast a vote. The bill is the first marriage equality bill to pass through Federal Parliament in Australia, despite the twenty attempts that have been made in the past. The next step for the bill is to be sent to the House of Representatives.
Some senators wanted two separate definitions of marriage instead of changing the current one to ‘the union of two people’ Other conservative senators wanted religious protections, like allowing ministers to refuse to marry a same-sex couple. The Senate did not add any such amendments, but the House of Representatives has the capability to add amendments and send the bill back to the Senate. According to The Guardian, Christopher Pyne––a member of the House of Representatives––stated, “We have others laws in place to protect religious freedom, we don’t need to put those in this bill and I won’t be voting for any amendments to this bill.”
A debate on same-sex marriage in the Parliament inspired a member of the House of Representatives, Tom Wilson, to propose to his partner, Ryan Bolger.
On December 7, the Australian Parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage. “This is Australia; fair, diverse, loving, and filled with respect for everyone,” the Prime Minister said as he introduced the bill for a final vote. Only four members of Parliament voted against the bill. Australia is now the 24th country to allow same-sex couples to marry. Australian couples are required to provide a one month notice of their choice to get married.