In a historic landslide vote, Australia’s Parliament has passed a marriage equality bill to finally legalise lesbian and gay marriages.
In an almost unanimous vote on Thursday, only four MPs rejected the bill to define marriage as a union between two people, regardless of their sex.
There was an air of palpable excitement and anticipation in parliament as lawmakers and activists waited for the announcement confirming the results of the vote, with some in the public gallery wearing rainbow colours.
MPs hugged, rose in applause, cheered, sang and waved rainbow flags after the bill was officially passed. “Australia has done it. What a day for love, for equality, for respect,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
He told parliament: “We’ve voted today for equality, for love, it’s time for more marriages, more commitment, more love, more respect.”
As from December 9, same-sex couples will be able “to lodge a notice of intended marriage,” with the first same-sex weddings expected to take place in January. Australia is now the 26th nation to legalise same-sex marriage.
The bill will also result in the automatic recognition of same-sex marriages registered in countries where they are legal.
MP Alex Greenwich, who co-chaired the Equality Campaign for same-sex marriage, was jubilant. “We came, we saw, and love finally conquered. Marriage equality is finally the law of the land and we are so proud of Australia,” he said at a press conference.
Campaigner Rodney Croome applauded the many activists and supporters of marriage equality who fought for their rights over the years. He said that all their letters, submissions and conversations had “built a mountain on which legislators were able to see the truth, finally, overwhelmingly…”
He also honoured the many same-sex couples who did not live to see marriage equality in Australia. “For them it is too late. This day is for them and this day is for those who have yet to come.”
Activists criticised the poll as a waste of taxpayer money and an unnecessary delay and for causing an upswell in anti-LGBT sentiment during campaigning.
One group documented over 220 examples of anti-LGBT hate speech over the almost two month-long survey period. These ranged from individual posts on social media pages to neo-Nazi groups plastering anti-LGBT posters in various public locations.