Melbourne: Australians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic nationwide poll with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull voicing confidence that Parliament will give it the force of law before Christmas.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Wednesday announced the astounding result of the two-month postal survey on same- sex marriage with 61.6% of people voting “yes" and 38.4% voted “no" in the postal survey.
Turnbull, a vocal advocate of marriage equality, called on lawmakers to heed the “overwhelming" result and to commit to legislate for gay marriage before Christmas. “It is our job now to get on with it, and get this done," the prime minister said on Wednesday shortly after ABS declared the survey result. “I say to all Australians, whatever your views on this issue may be, we must respect the voice of the people. We asked them for their opinion and they have given it to us. It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming," he said.
Every state and territory recorded over 60% ‘yes’ result except New South Wales, which recorded 57.8% approval. Of 12.7 million people who took part in the survey, 7.8 million voted ‘yes’ and 4.9 million said ‘no’. Parliamentary debate to legalise same-sex marriage could begin as early as Thursday. A cross-party group of senators—led by Liberal Dean Smith and supported by senior Labour figure Penny Wong, amongst others—will introduce a private bill to the upper house on Wednesday afternoon.
Thousands of same-sex marriage supporters celebrated the ‘yes’ result by waving rainbow flags and hugging each other at mass gatherings organised across the nation. The Equality Campaign described the result as resounding and historic. “This happened because millions of Australians reached out to our own families, neighbourhoods, organisations—to stand up for equality, stand by our loved ones and share why YES was so important," spokesman Alex Greenwich said in a statement.
“Parliament still has to pass Australia’s unequivocal mandate for equality into law. And you can be sure we’ll hold them to that—we expect a timely vote on a fair and simple bill, this year," he said. The high turnout and unequivocal result amounted to a rebuke for Australia’s most conservative politicians, many of whom saw a majority of their constituents vote to support same-sex marriage despite their arguments against it.
The UN Human Rights Committee last week criticised Australia for putting gays and lesbians “through an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll." The committee called on Australia to legislate for marriage equality regardless of the survey’s outcome.