[WATCH] Australia: PM calls for marriage equality by Christmas

After an 'overwhelming' 61.6% vote in favour of same-sex marriage, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said that Australians had voted 'yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love'

(Photo: the New Daily)
(Photo: the New Daily)

Australian parliament has to commit to deliver marriage equality by Christmas time, said prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, after 61.6% voted in favour of same-sex marriage, in a postal survey.

Nationwide celebrations were held, prompting Turnbull to head off attempts from conservatives in his ruling Liberal-National coalition to delay the legislative process.

The participation rate of 7.5% in the survey, said Turnbull, meant that Australians had “spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality”.

“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,” he said.

After a national vote, which was resisted by marriage equality advocates, prominent LGBTI Australians celebrated that the Australian values of fairness and equality were reflected in the outcome.

Large public gatherings in major cities saw marriage proposals and tears as Australia’s chief statistician, David Kalisch, announced the result in the capital, Canberra.

In Melbourne 5,000 people outside the State Library of Victoria cheered and danced to Kylie Minogue. In Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park, John Paul Young sang Love is in the Air.

Celebrities including Minogue, Ellen DeGeneres – married to Australian-American Portia de Rossi, Tim Cook, Canadian leader Justin Trudeau and former British prime minister David Cameron tweeted their congratulations.

Christine Forster, the sister of former prime minister Tony Abbott – she is in a same-sex relationship and is a long-term support of marriage equality, while he is an opponent – punched the air. Szubanski said the result was for “all of us”.

“No matter how we want to live our life, we must live as equal people in this country,” she told the crowd.

Every state and territory voted for marriage equality, with the national vote 7,817,247 in favour and 4,873,947 against. The constituencies of central Sydney and Melbourne saw the largest majorities in favour, at 83.7% each. Seventeen of the federal parliament’s 150 seats had a majority of no voters.

Same-sex marriage has been banned in Australia since 2004, when the Howard government changed the Marriage Act to define marriage as between a man and a woman. As many comparable countries such as the US and Britain allowed or legislated for same-sex marriage, Australia seemed to be slacking.

After the successful marriage equality referendum in Ireland in May 2015, pressure grew on the Australian government to legislate but the Coalition party room agreed on a national plebiscite instead.

When Turnbull took the prime ministership from conservative predecessor Tony Abbott in September 2015, he retained the Coalition’s commitment to hold a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage before changing the law.

The yes camp’s Equality Campaign combined with moderate Liberals, Labor, the Greens, unions and progressive campaign organisation GetUp to argue that same-sex marriage was a matter of equality, fairness and allowing LGBTI Australians to marry the one they love.

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