Australia's Same Sex Marriage Vote

Banners in the Australian city of Sydney supporting same-sex marriage. Editorial credit: SAKARET /
Banners in the Australian city of Sydney supporting same-sex marriage. Editorial credit: SAKARET /
  • Approximately 79.5% of Australia's population voted in the same-sex survey.
  • 74% of residents of the capital city of Australia, Canberra, voted in favor of same-sex marriage.
  • Same-sex marriage has been legal in Australia since 2017.

Same-sex marriage refers to a ceremonial union between adults of the same gender. The man and man or woman and woman gain legal recognition by the state either in a civil, secular or religious setting as “husband and wife.” Many countries have passed this law while others have rejected it. Australia is the current region to hold a referendum on the issue.

Australia's Same-Sex Marriage Referendum

In early 2017, the state carried out a survey on how the citizens viewed same-sex marriage. All the people whose names were on the electoral list received a questionnaire which they were supposed to respond to within eight weeks. The response was either you support or oppose the legal union between people of the same sex. The ballot questions were received via letterboxes and submitted through an already paid for mail envelope so as to be received by the statistics office by November 7th, 2017, at 6 PM local time.

The outcome was announced on November 15th, 2017. About 12.7 million voters turned out against 10 million total registered voters translating to 79.5 voter turnout. The survey revealed that 61.6% were in support of same-sex marriage whereas 38.4% voted against. This was seen as a big win for the “No” front-runner Lyle Shelton who had earlier said that the media is advocating for "Yes". Sources from the Australian Bureau of Statistics stated that Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania voted at 64%, Northern and Queensland at 61% with New South Wales at 58%. The capital city had the highest "Yes" vote at 74%.

Same-Sex Marriage Bill in Parliament

The Marriage Amendment Bill was taken to the parliament by Senator Dean Smith and after going through all the stages, the majority voted for same-sex marriage. As of December 9th, 2017 same-sex marriage is legal in Australia. The Parliament met to discuss the same-sex marriage bill immediately after the survey was conducted. This was in a bid to amend the law that specifically stated that marriage should only be between people of the opposite sex. The debate went on continuously to ensure the House of Representatives is through with the debate before the Christmas break. The leader of the house Christopher Pyne allowed each member a maximum of 15 minutes. Later some of the "No" proponents went to the high court requesting it to nullify the decision. The high court nevertheless upheld the outcome since the survey was carried out on a voluntary basis.

Consequences of the Change in the Law

The "Yes" supporters celebrated the outcome of the referendum. One of the supporters, Liberal MP Tim Wilson, even went ahead and made a marriage proposal to his partner Ryan Bolger who was sitting in the parliament's galley at the time of the debate. This was the first such proposal recorded in the Hansard. Other supporters are eager to execute the same and get married. Religious groups such as the Catholics, The Presbyterian Church, and the Imam Council of Muslims made it clear that they do not support the new same-sex marriage.

Other Same-Sex Marriage Referendums

Previously the world has witnessed other surveys such as in the United States in 2012, Croatia in 2013, Slovak in 2015, and the Irish same-sex marriage referendum of 2015.


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