Australia legalizes same-sex marriage

By Jason Scott | Bloomberg News

Australia legalized same-sex marriage Thursday, paving the way for the first gay weddings to be held early next year and triggering jubilant celebrations at Parliament House.

Lawmakers and supporters of marriage equality in the public gallery cheered and applauded as the legislation was passed in the lower chamber, three weeks after the public overwhelmingly backed changing the law in a nationwide survey.

“Australia has done it,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. “Every Australian had their say and they said it’s fair, get on with it. The parliament has got on with it, and we’ve voted today for equality, for love.”

Australia is the 25th nation to legalize same-sex unions, according to the Marriage Equality campaign group, trailing countries such as the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand. Even though the nation’s largest city, Sydney, has famously held its vibrant Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras since 1978, regional areas were more reticent to embrace gay marriage and the issue has divided parliament for years.

“This is a wonderful moment in Australian history,” said Tiernan Brady, leader of the Marriage Equality campaign. “The Australian people have re-affirmed that this is a land of the fair go for everybody. For the first time, the LGBTI community feels like a full member of society, which is an incredibly empowering moment.”

Laws discriminating against the gay community have gradually been repealed in Australia over the decades and Tasmania became the final state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1997. Same-sex couples have been recognized in legally binding relationships since 2009.

Thursday’s marriage equality vote ends a protracted and hard-fought campaign by gay-rights activists, who argued that conservative lawmakers on both sides of politics were increasingly out of touch with public opinion. Much of the business community also rallied to the cause, and more than 30 executives this year petitioned …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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