The Associated PressCANBERRA (AP) — The Australian Parliament voted on Thursday to allow same-sex marriage across the nation, following a bitter and divisive debate settled by the government polling voters in a much-criticized ballot survey that strongly endorsed change.
The public gallery of the House of Representatives erupted with applause when the bill passed to change the definition of marriage from solely between a man and a woman to “a union of two people” excluding all others. The legislation passed with a majority that wasn’t challenged, although five lawmakers registered their opposition to the bill.
The Senate passed the same legislation last week 43 votes to 12. After royal assent and other formalities, the law will likely take effect in about a month, with the first weddings expected about a month later.
Amendments meant to safeguard freedoms of speech and religion for gay-marriage opponents were all rejected, though those issues may be considered later. The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage is a reality in Australia.
Lawmakers advocating marriage equality had argued that the national postal survey in November mandated a change of the marriage definition alone, so changing the law should not be delayed by other considerations.
“It is now our job as members of Parliament to pass a fair bill that does not extend or create any new discriminations,” an emotional government lawmaker Warren Entsch, who helped draft the bill, told Parliament. “It is a strong bill that already strikes the right balance between equality and freedom of religion.”Speech