UK

Australia Legalises Same-Sex Marriage

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07/12/2017 08:44 GMT | Updated 07/12/2017 12:18 GMT

Australia became the 26th nation to legalise same-sex marriage on Thursday.

Cheers and singing rang out in the packed parliament public gallery, a symbolic moment for a country where some states ruled homosexual acts to be illegal until just 20 years ago.

Politicians, who had cast aside a conservative push to allow religious objectors to refuse service to same-sex couples, waved rainbow flags and embraced on the floor of the chamber, where earlier in the debate a politician had proposed to his same-sex partner.

Fewer than five of 150 MPs voted against the law, Reuters news agency reported.

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Members of Parliament embrace one another after parliament passed the same-sex marriage bill in the Federal Parliament in Canberra on December 7, 2017
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Celebrations take place for supporters of the passing of the marriage equality bill on December 7, 2017 in Canberra, Australia

“What a day. What a day for love, for equality, for respect,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. ”...It is time for more marriages.”

The laws, which will also recognize same-sex marriages solemnized in foreign countries, take effect from Saturday. Because a month’s notice is required for the state to recognize a marriage, the first legal same-sex unions will be in January.

Australians had overwhelmingly endorsed legalizing same-sex marriage in a postal survey run by the national statistics agency.

The bill cleared the upper house last month and had been expected to pass on Thursday after Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition government and the main opposition Labor Party had previously said they wanted to pass it by Dec. 7.

But religious organizations and conservative lawmakers had voiced strong opposition and proposed dozens of amendments.

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Patrons inside the Stonewall Hotel applaud the passing of the Gay Marriage Bill on December 7, 2017 in Sydney
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Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull applauds after parliament passed the same-sex marriage bill in the Federal Parliament in Canberra on December 7, 2017
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Members of the public applaud after the Australian Parliament passed the same-sex marriage bill in the Federal Parliament in Canberra on December 7, 2017 

During parliamentary debate, they pressed for broad protections for religious objectors, among them florists and bankers, to refuse service to same-sex couples.

“These amendments, rather, are a shield for people and organizations that hold to a traditional view of marriage. They are not a sword to be wielded in the service of bigotry,” government MP Andrew Hastie said in parliament.

Amendments to permit lay celebrants to decline to solemnize same-sex marriages and businesses opposed to the unions to refuse service at wedding receptions were all defeated, one after the other, during three days of debate.

“Love has won, and it’s time to pop the bubbly,” Greens MP and same-sex marriage supporter Adam Bandt said.