After decades of trials and tribulations, the citizens of Australia voted last month to allow gay marriage to be recognized. Only two years after the U.S. Supreme Court made the same choice, the non-compulsory vote on the legislation took place through a national survey and received 12.7 million responses, 79.5 percent of Australia’s population. The “Yes” vote won with 61.6 percent of the vote, however the survey issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was non-binding for the Australian government. This lack of obligation thus meant the government was not required to pass a law allowing for same-sex marriage.
The Liberal-National Coalition, of whom the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, is a part of, pledged to help the progress of such legislation were there to be a majority “Yes” vote. The vote also had the power to halt such progressions, as the Australian government stated it would not allow a parliamentary debate or vote on the issue in the event of a majority “No” outcome.
While many believed this was a step in the right direction in influencing the government’s future actions, others, although not in opposition to the legislation, opposed the method of achieving it. The vote cost the ABS 102 million Australian dollars, money that could have been spent elsewhere. Not only was the survey costly, many also viewed it as redundant as a similar polls had been taken, including one in the parliament.
The Australian Senate passed a bill to allow for same-sex marriage on November 28, following the ABS survey. This bill passed with a 43 to 12 majority vote and thus moved onto approval in the House of Representatives. The bill’s contents were up for debate, as many changes, including allowing individual officiants to decide whether or not they wish to marry gay couples, were proposed and subsequently dismissed in the Senate.
The House of Representatives approved the bill on December 10th, and same-sex marriage will be legally recognized starting in 2018.
George Brandis, Attorney-General and member of the Senate since 2000, shared his thoughts on the result after he voted on the bill.
“I am so proud of Australian democracy today, more proud than I have ever been,” Brandis said.
“Nobody owns this result but the Australian people themselves,” said Brandis.
The Australian people now have the right to marry whomever they want with the government’s approval, starting in 2018.

Photo Courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

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