A significant majority of Australians have voted in favor of same-sex marriage. The survey that was conducted by the government is not legally binding, however, it paves the way for Parliament to legalize same-sex marriages. 12.7 million Australians took part in the survey. 61.6% voted yes while 38.4% voted no. The level of participation was very high. At least 79.5% of all Australians of voting age participated in the survey.
Shortly after the results were announced, proponents of gay rights in the country celebrated across various cities. The largest crowd was at Prince Alfred Park in Sydney. Chris Lewis, a 60-year-old artist from Sydney, said that this was a historical and proud moment for the country. The same sentiments were also shared by Alex Greenwich, a state lawmaker from New South Wales. Greenwich, who is also the chairman of Australian Marriage Equality, said that the survey showed that indeed Australians had come together to support the gay community.
The national survey was called by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull despite significant opposition from his center-right liberal party. Far-right members of his party were against the survey and lobbied for a NO vote. Turnbull, however, voted yes and publicly urged all Australians to do the same. Turnbull added that the results of the survey were clear and it’s now up to the Parliament to begin setting the required legislation that will legalize same-sex marriage in the country. The Prime Minister was confident that this will be done before the end of the year.
Lobbyists who voted no accepted the results too. Lyle Shelton, a Christian activist who was part of the NO campaign, said that he was ready to accept the democratic decision of the people. He added that there are millions of Australians who still believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. It will take years to change that.
The survey comes two years after the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all states across US. The Australian survey was however shrouded in controversy. The first one was the cost. It is estimated that the survey cost about $122 million Australian dollars. Many felt that this was an unnecessary bill considering that the results were not needed for the Parliament to act.
Some supporters of same-sex marriage also criticized how the process was conducted. Many felt that same-sex marriage was a human rights issue and not an up-or-down vote. The activists urged the Parliament to decide on the matter solely. The survey was also challenged in an Australian high court back in September by a group of activists who argued that it was an unconstitutional use of tax money. However, the court allowed it to continue.
The results indicate a significant shift in opinions towards same-sex marriage in Australia. Although this does not guarantee the legalization of same-sex marriage, it’s a huge statement.