Australia legalizes same-sex marriage
Parliament votes for legalization, ending decades of resistance
Australia’s Parliament votes to legalize samesex marriage after years of resistance.
SYDNEY — Australia’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage, overcoming years of conservative resistance to enact change that the public had made clear that it wanted.
The final approval in the House of Representatives, with just four votes against the bill, came three weeks after a national referendum showed strong public support for same-sex marriage. The Senate passed the legislation last week.
“This belongs to us all,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Thursday. “This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect. For every one of us this is a great day.”
On Friday, Turnbull traveled to Government House, where Governor-general Peter Cosgrove signed the bill into law on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, Australia’s constitutional head of state.
Cosgrove’s signature makes gay marriage legal in Australia beginning Saturday, when same-sex couples who wed overseas will be recognized as married couples.
Engaged couples will need to give a calendar-month notice of an intention to marry, making gay weddings legal on Jan. 9, Turnbull said.
The new law expands on earlier legislation that provided equality to same-sex couples in areas like government benefits, employment and taxes, and it changes the definition of marriage from “the union of a man and a woman” to “the union of two people.”
Gay rights advocates praised the landmark vote.
“It is a huge affirmation of the dignity of gay people in yet another country,” said Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, which led the U.S. campaign for marriage equality.
A handful of lawmakers tried to add amendments that they said were meant to safeguard religious freedoms for opponents of same-sex marriage, but their efforts failed. Turnbull noted that nothing in the legislation requires ministers or other celebrants to oversee weddings of gay couples or threatens the charity status of religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage, two concerns the lawmakers had raised.