Australian leaders are pledging “marriage equality by Christmas”

Image: Reuters/David Gray
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More than 60% of Australians said they were in favor of same-sex marriage in a national postal survey that saw very strong participation. After the results were announced today (Nov. 15), Australian lawmakers pledged to make same-sex marriage a legal reality in the country before the end of the year.

“The Australian people have had their say. They voted overwhelmingly for fairness, for commitment, for love,” said prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. “And now it’s our job as the Australian parliament, all of us here to get on with it, to get this done before Christmas.”

The survey, which asked “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?,” accepted responses from Sept. 12 to Nov. 7. Some 12.7 million people, or nearly 80% of those eligible, participated, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, noting this was high for a voluntary survey. Individually, each of the country’s states and territories voted yes.

Statistics bureau chief David W. Kalisch said anti-fraud measures and external checks meant that people were not able to vote more than once. “Australians can have confidence these statistics reflect the country’s views,” he said in a bureau statement.

Before the survey, it was clear that at least two-thirds of Australians were in favor of the change, not to mention the business community. But lawmakers hadn’t been able to overcome opposition from politicians representing more conservative, religious parts of society, making Australia a conspicuous laggard in LGBT rights in the Asia-Pacific region. Some of that opposition surfaced in the campaigning around the postal referendum, with groups against same-sex marriage turning to scaremongering and stereotypes of gay people to rally “no” voters. The Coalition for Marriage, for example, aired a television ad that claimed schools were asking kids to role-play as same-sex couples.

Today’s result and joyful celebrating isn’t likely to make these camps go away—this week, as lawmakers are expected to introduce same-sex marriage legislation in the Australian parliament, a draft version circulated by one conservative lawmaker proposes allowing businesses to decline to serve gay wedding clients in a bid to protect the rights of those who voted no.