“Today love has had a landslide victory.”
Australia has taken a decisive step towards legislating marriage equality by Christmas after 61.6% of voters in an unprecedented national postal survey approved a change to the law to allow couples of the same sex to marry.
The result, announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, will lead to consideration of a same-sex marriage bill in parliament with the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, promising marriage equality should be law by Christmas.
Australia’s same-sex marriage postal survey: 61.6% yes, 38.4% no
With a turnout of 79.5% the result in the voluntary survey is considered a highly credible reflection of Australian opinion and gives marriage equality advocates enormous momentum to achieve the historic social reform. Australia’s chief statistician, David Kalisch, announced the results at a press conference in Canberra at 10am on Wednesday, revealing 7,817,247 (61.6%) people voted in favour and 4,873,987 (38.4%) voted against.
At a press conference in Canberra, Turnbull said that Australians had “spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality”.
Turnbull said the result was “unequivocal and overwhelming”, implicitly warning conservatives including in his own government that the public are “our masters” and the parliament must now deliver on the result.
“They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love. And now it is up to us here in the parliament of Australia to get on with it, to get on with the job the Australian people asked us to do and get this done,” he said, stressing the law should change before Christmas.
At a rally in Melbourne, the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, said: “What a fabulous day to be an Australian – because in this survey the Australian people have declared overwhelmingly Australia is ready for marriage equality.
“And I just want to make one promise: today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate,” he said.
A bill is expected to pass, with many opponents of marriage equality in parliament promising to respect the result, although parliament may consider amendments.
In a speech after the result Equality Campaign spokesman, Alex Greenwich, said: “Today love has had a landslide victory.”
“Together we have achieved something truly remarkable, a win for fairness and equality, not only for the LGBTI community and our families, but for all Australians.”
Same-sex marriage has been banned in Australia since 2004 when the Howard government changed the Marriage Act to define marriage as between a man and a woman. As many comparable countries such as the US and Britain allowed or legislated for same-sex marriage, Australia looked increasingly out of step. After the successful marriage equality referendum in Ireland in May 2015, pressure grew on the Australian government to legislate but the Coalition party room agreed on a national plebiscite instead, although there was no legal requirement to do so.