NEWS

Australian Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill In Historic Vote

The bill now heads to the lower house, where it’s expected to pass, and then get signed into law by Christmas.

29/11/2017 08:03 SAST | Updated 29/11/2017 17:54 SAST

It was a scene of jubilation on the floor of the Australian Senate chamber Wednesday as lawmakers embraced and cheered following the historic passage of a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

Forty-three senators voted in support of the legislation while 12 voted against. Passed without any amendments, the marriage equality bill now heads to the House of Representatives, also known as the lower house, where it’ll be voted on Monday. 

With the majority of lawmakers in the lower house in favor of the bill, it’s expected to pass with ease, reported Australia’s ABC News. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had promised to legalize gay marriage by Christmas ― a vow he’ll now likely be able to fulfill. 

Earlier this month, Australians overwhelmingly voted yes on marriage equality in a national postal survey. More than 61 percent of the 12.7 million people who voted in the nonbinding poll expressed their support of gay marriage. 

Wednesday’s vote marks the first time a same-sex marriage bill has passed in either Australia’s Senate or House of Representatives — though this hasn’t been for lack of trying. According to The Guardian, Australia has failed more than 20 times to legalize gay marriage.

Speaking to her Senate colleagues before the final vote Wednesday, Senate Leader of the Opposition Penny Wong said Australia’s lawmakers were standing “on the cusp of a remarkable achievement and an historic event.”

“What [marriage equality] says to young LGBTIQ Australians, what it says to the young man struggling with who he is, or the young woman who feels alone and ashamed, what it says to the children of same-sex couples who feel ostracized,” said Wong. “It says to so many Australians, this parliament, this country, accept you for who you are. Your love is not lesser, and nor are you. It says you’re one of us.”

Wong is Australia’s first openly gay woman in Parliament. Photos showing her in tears following the postal survey result went viral earlier this month.

Also speaking before the vote, Sen. Dean Smith shared the story of why he’d decided to author the marriage equality bill.

Smith, who is gay, explained how he had opposed marriage equality until the death of Tori Johnson, a gay man who was killed in the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis.

“Tori lost his life in the Lindt terrorist siege. He was brave, he was courageous and he had a partner named Thomas,” Smith said. “I thought of their loss and it changed me. I realized that people with real lives deserve their love to be blessed and affirmed by the institution of marriage if they so choose.”

Smith later said the bill’s passage showed just how far Australia had come in the fight for equality.

“In the course of a generation, we have seen the LGBTI community move from rejection to tolerance, from tolerance to acceptance, and from acceptance to embrace,” he said, according to BuzzFeed.

 

 

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