Australias Parliament legalized same-sex marriage on Thursday, overcoming years of conservative resistance with an overwhelming majority vote.
Cheers and applause broke out as ministers voted in favour of the bill following hours of debate and emotional speeches at the House of Representatives. Only four MPs voted against the bill, the Australian media reported.
“This is Australia: Fair, diverse, loving and filled for respect for everyone,” said an effusive Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as he introduced the bill for a final vote.
“What a day, what a day for love, for equality, for respect. Australia has done it!” said Turnbull following the announcement.
“Today we’ve voted for love, for equality. It’s time for more marriages, more love, more respect. This belongs to us all.”
Labour Party leader Bill Shorten said the new law spoke for a modern Australia, “inclusive and fair”, 9news.com reported. Gay rights advocates praised the landmark vote even as they said it was long overdue.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch critic of same-sex marriage, seemed to have softened.
“When it comes to same-sex marriage, some countries have introduced it via the courts, some via Parliament, and others – Ireland and now Australia – by vote of the people,” Abbott said. “And that is the best way because it resolves this matter beyond doubt or quibble.”
The bill will now go to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove for royal assent. The country is now the 24th in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry, according to Pew Research.
The move follows a two-month national postal survey that showed 61 per cent of more than 12 million respondents were in favour of marriage equality.
Australia’s first same-sex weddings will not take place until at least January due to a longstanding requirement for all Australian couples to provide a full month’s notice of their intention to get married.