Australia votes “yes” to same-sex marriage

By: Yulia Nakagome

Love won in Australia on Nov. 15, when its citizens voted “yes” on a poll concerning the legalization of same-sex marriage. In the eight weeks leading up to the decision, more than 12.7 million Australians cast their votes on the following question: “should the marriage law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” The voluntary poll drew the participation of an overwhelming 80 percent of voting age Australians. Of those people, 61.6 percent voted “yes,” while 38.4 percent voted “no,” according to The New York Times. Though the vote is not binding, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and all major political party leaders have promised that the law will go into effect by Christmas. Should the ruling go through Parliament as it is expected to, Australia will join countries like the United States, the Netherlands, and Canada to become the 28th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Previous to this voluntary vote, there had been two attempts at a compulsory national vote, both of which ended in failure when they were blocked by the Senate. The vote was no less controversial this time around. Supporters of same-sex marriage argued that the legalization of same-sex marriage should not be decided by a referendum, but that it should be forwarded straight to Parliament. Cost was also an issue; the poll was estimated to cost $97 million to carry out, and many believed that it was an unconstitutional use of tax money.

The poll also faced opposition from the church. According to The Washington Post, 70 percent of Australians identify as religious, but the majority believe that couples of the same-sex should be able to marry. This, however, contradicts some of the deep-rooted beliefs held by many religious leaders in the country. Some were still adamant that marriage should be solely between a man and a woman. Others, while contending their respect for same-sex couples, opposed the vote because they felt that same-sex marriage would perpetuate the secularity of the church. It was among their fears that religious schools would be “forced” to teach about the fluidity of sexuality, or that businesses would be unable to refuse service to same-sex couples.

Despite the hardships they had overcome on the way, proponents of same-sex marriage were overjoyed by the results of the poll. Though it was nowhere near the end of the fight for marriage equality, the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia gave people around the world a cause to wave their pride flags in celebration.

“The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ for marriage equality,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who put in a “yes” vote himself. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love.”

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