Nearly two-thirds of Australians voted for marriage equality in a postal survey likely to lead Parliament to consider legalizing same-sex weddings this year.
“We congratulate Australia’s LGBTQ advocates and allies who worked so hard to ensure a victory in this postal survey,” said Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global. “It’s crucial that loving, committed same-sex couples in Australia have the same rights and protections that come with marriage. We urge the Australian Parliament to take swift action ensuring marriage equality becomes the law of the land.”
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Nov. 15 that 62 percent of registered voters who responded in the mail survey favored reform.
The conservative government promised to allow a bill for marriage equality in Parliament in the final two-week session that is due to end on Dec. 7.
Thousands of marriage equality supporters waving rainbow flags gathered anxiously in city parks around the country and cheered when the results was announced.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, an advocate of marriage equality, called on lawmakers to heed the “overwhelming” result and to commit to legislate for gay marriage by next month.
“They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love,” Turnbull told reporters. “Now it is up to us here in the Parliament of Australia to get on with it, to get on with the job the Australian people have tasked us to do and get this done this year before Christmas — that must be our commitment.”
Some government lawmakers have vowed to vote down gay marriage regardless of the survey’s outcome.
But the survey found a majority of voters in 133 of the 150 districts in the House of Representatives wanted reform.
Ireland is the only other country to put same-sex marriage to a popular vote, but that referendum was binding. Irish voters in 2015 changed their constitution to allow marriage equality.
In Australia, voting in elections and referenda is compulsory, but the Senate refused to fund a binding vote. Almost 80 percent of more than 16 million registered voters posted ballots in the voluntary survey, which gay marriage advocates opposed as an unnecessary obstacle and opponents derided as being about a boutique issue of little public interest.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee last week criticized Australia for putting gays and lesbians “through an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll.” The committee called on Australia to legislate for marriage equality regardless of the survey’s outcome.