Australia Votes Overwhelmingly in Favor of Marriage Equality

Demonstrators celebrate as the result of the national marriage equality survey is announced in Melbourne, Australia.

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Australia wants marriage equality.

In a national postal survey, 61.6 percent of respondents voted to let same-sex couples marry. Just 38.4 percent voted against extending marriage rights to gay people. About 12.7 million Australians voted, with a whopping 79.5 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot. The final result is almost identical to that in Ireland, which voted to legalize same-sex marriage by 62 percent in 2015.

The Australian survey, which was conducted entirely via mail, is in theory not binding on the government. In practice, though, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who supports marriage equality, has promised that a bill legalizing same-sex marriage would “sail through parliament” and believes it will pass by Christmas. In anticipation of a yes vote, the major parties have been working on a bill to repeal the country’s same-sex marriage ban while safeguarding individual churches’ right to prohibit same-sex weddings. Turnbull has firmly rejected compromise measures that would legalize discrimination against gay couples in public accommodations.

More than 1 billion people around the world live in countries that recognize same-sex marriage. Australia is one of the few remaining liberal democracies to deny marriage rights to its gay residents. The country’s resounding support for marriage equality is a rebuke to its previous prime minister, Tony Abbott, who opposed gay rights and led the campaign against changing the law. In February, Abbott lowered expectations by declaring that a 40 percent “no” vote would be a “moral victory.” In the end, he still fell short.