Scenes of celebration have erupted around the country as the Australian marriage equality vote results in a YES.
At 10 a.m. 15 November the results from Australia’s same sex marriage survey were announced, showing 61.6% of Australians have supported the right of same sex couples to marry.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) announced the results of the voluntary, non-binding postal vote, stating that the overall response rate to the survey was 79.5%.
Australian statistician David Kalisch said, “This is outstanding for a voluntary survey and well above other voluntary surveys conducted around the world. It shows how important this issue is to many Australians.”
The participation rate was slightly higher for older age groups. The youngest Australians eligible to vote, 18-19 year olds, had a 78% participation rate. The electorate with the highest yes majority was the seat of Melbourne in Victoria with 83.7% of people voting yes, with similar results in Sydney.
New South Wales (NSW) returned the lowest ‘yes’ vote with 57.7%, while the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) returned the highest “yes” vote with 74%.
The final count was 7.8 million voted yes and 4.9 million voted no.
Prime Minister Turnbull called the postal survey an “unprecedented exercise in democracy.”
As promised, the Australian Parliament must now act to legislate the will of the Australian people as soon as possible.
Liberal Senator Dean Smith will be introducing a bill to amend the Marriage Act in the Senate on the same afternoon that the results were announced. The bill includes an exemption for religious organisations in officiating same sex marriages. The motion has cross-party coalition support including senators from Labor, the Greens, and the Crossbench. A debate and parliamentary process is planned to begin on Thursday morning.
Liberal Senator James Paterson will also be proposing a new conservative-backed bill designed to provide for religious protections. The bill extends as far as allowing private businesses to refuse goods and services for gay weddings if they have “conscientious objections.”
However Turnbull has stated that it would have “virtually no prospect of getting through the Parliament” and has made it clear that Smith’s bill is his preferred option.
In a press conference shortly after the results were announced, Turnbull said, the people have “voted yes for fairness, they voted yes for commitment, they voted yes for love”.
“And now it is up for us here in Parliament to get on with it,” he said as promised to deliver change to legislation by Christmas this year.
Co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich thanked politicians for coming together on this issue.
“For the first time we have a clear pathway to marriage equality, and this is thanks to powerful political consensus in support of the LGBTI community and a fair go for all.”
Opposition Bill Shorten has said, “Yes, yes, yes! What a fabulous day to be an Australian. Today we celebrate. Tomorrow we legislate.”
It has been months of campaigning from both sides of the marriage equality debate. Many were nervous in the lead up to the results that the opinion polls, predicting a yes vote, may have got it wrong.
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The Mordi Ibe Foundation campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.10, Reduced Inequality. There are a range of actions that work to reduce inequality and call on other governments to end discrimination and violence against the LGBQTI community.