Australia’s parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage Thursday after years of political jockeying and fierce public debate.
Cheers and applause broke out as lawmakers voted in favor of the bill following hours of debate and emotional speeches at Parliament House in Canberra.
“This is Australia: Fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect for everyone,” said an effusive Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as he introduced the bill for a final vote.
“This is a great day, it belongs to every Australian.”
"What a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it" – @TurnbullMalcolm. "Australia we are going to make marriage equality a reality in minutes" – @BillShortenMP. #marriageequality #auspol #7News pic.twitter.com/uIChPEOWfv
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) December 7, 2017
The historic bill was passed on the voices and no count was made due to the overwhelming support for the bill. The parliamentarians who voted in favor of same-sex marriage took time to let the jubilant moment sink in, celebrating with hugs, handshakes and proudly sporting rainbow-colored clothing. In a particularly poignant moment, the ministers on the House floor and guests in the gallery began singing “I am, you are, we are Australian.”
— ABC News (@abcnews) December 7, 2017
The move follows a two-month national postal survey that showed 61% of more than 12 million respondents were in favor of marriage equality. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks on the House floor shortly before the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The country is now the 24th in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry, according to Pew Research.
Australia’s first same-sex weddings will not take place until at least January, however, due to a longstanding requirement for all Australian couples to provide a full month’s notice of their intention to get married.
Marriage equality campaigners have fought for years for Thursday’s vote. Though the bill was expected to pass into law without significant opposition, the lengthy legislative process was excruciatingly slow for the hundreds of advocates watching from the public gallery.
Among them was Christine Forster, the gay sister of Tony Abbott, the former Australian Prime Minister who has long been seen as the face of the “no” campaign.
Australian actor Magda Szubanski (far left) and Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe (second left) seen with equality ambassadors and volunteers outside Parliament House. Forster was joined in the public gallery by her partner, Virginia Edwards. They plan to marry next year, and Abbott has said he’ll attend despite his personal views. Abbott and other conservatives proposed amendments to the bill to include further religious protections, all of which were voted down. Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott discusses amendments to the marriage equality bill at Parliament House on Thursday.
“These amendments are important and I stress they are not against same-sex marriage, they are simply in favor of the rights of religious organizations to keep doing what their doing,” Abbott said.
Opponents of the changes argued they would legalize discrimination against the gay community. The 500 or so people in the gallery were vocal in their disapproval of the amendments. They were warned multiple times that parliamentary rules prohibit them making noise and even applauding.