Aus­tralia MPs pass same-sex mar­riage bill

The Herald (South Africa) - - WORLD - Glenda Kwek

GAY cou­ples will be able to legally marry in Aus­tralia af­ter a same-sex mar­riage bill sailed through par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, end­ing decades of po­lit­i­cal wran­gling.

There were loud cheers, hugs and sus­tained clap­ping in the 150-seat lower House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives when all but four MPs voted in sup­port of mar­riage equal­ity, af­ter the up­per house Se­nate passed the bill 43-12 last week.

“What a day for love, for equal­ity, for re­spect! Aus­tralia has done it,” Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull told the House.

“Ev­ery Australian had their say and they said it is fair, get on with it!”

The his­toric re­forms will com­mence to­mor­row, when same-sex cou­ples can a lodge a no­tice to marry. They will then have to wait a month be­fore ty­ing the knot.

Labour op­po­si­tion leader Bill Shorten hailed the pass­ing of the bill as a unit­ing moment for Aus­tralia.

“Now is the time for heal­ing. A time to build, a time to love, and is now at last a time for mar­riage equal­ity,” he said.

Same-sex mar­riage cam­paign­ers con­verged out­side par­lia­ment in the cap­i­tal Canberra to cel­e­brate the his­toric oc­ca­sion, which sees Aus­tralia join more than 20 other coun­tries in recog­nis­ing such unions.

“We came, we saw, and love fi­nally con­quered,” Equal­ity Cam­paign co-chair Alex Green­wich said.

“We thank all Aus­tralians for their sup­port, for say­ing yes, we thank all those who have cam­paigned for many years, for over 10 years, for fair­ness and equal­ity.”

The bill was in­tro­duced in par­lia­ment by the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment af­ter Aus­tralians last month en­dorsed the re­forms in a con­tro­ver­sial vol­un­tary postal vote.

Nearly 80% of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers took part in the poll, and al­most 62% of the 12.7 mil­lion peo­ple who par­tic­i­pated chose “yes” on their bal­lots.

The vote had been called by Turn­bull in the face of op­po­si­tion from hard­lin­ers who re­fused to back a na­tional plebiscite on the is­sue.

It was op­posed by pro­po­nents of same-sex mar­riage, who wanted di­rect leg­isla­tive ac­tion.

Just un­der five mil­lion peo­ple voted “no”, with con­ser­va­tive politi­cians us­ing their re­jec­tion as a cat­a­lyst to push for re­li­gious ex­emp­tions to be in­cluded in the leg­is­la­tion.

But af­ter lengthy de­bate, both houses of par­lia­ment knocked back any re­li­gious free­dom amendments.

Lead­ing “no” cam­paigner Lyle Shel­ton said it was a deeply dis­ap­point­ing day.

Pic­ture: AFP/ SEAN DAVEY

JOY FOR SOME: Magda Szuban­ski dances in front of equal­ity am­bas­sadors and vol­un­teers at Par­lia­ment House

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