Australia votes for gay marriage

More than 6 in 10 in favour of same-sex marriage

SYDNEY Celebrations swept across Australia yesterday as voters endorsed same-sex marriage after more than a decade of divisive debate, and political leaders began to enshrine the shift in law by Christmas.

Thousands of marriage equality supporters took to parks and squares, hugging, dancing and singing under clouds of glitter when the results of the two-month-long postal survey were announced.

Revellers wrapped in rainbow colours swarmed the entertainment districts of Sydney, Melbourne and other cities, closing streets as the party continued late into the evening.

"This means everything," shouted one partygoer named Chris at a rally in Sydney, hugging his partner Victor.

"It has been fantastic. I have been with my partner for 35 years and he was so overjoyed that he burst into tears," added another reveller, Mr Gerry Boller.

Almost 62 per cent of the 12.7 million people who participated voted "yes" to: "Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?"


Just 38.4 per cent voted "no", according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which carried out the poll.

Irish-born Qantas Airlines chief Alan Joyce, who is openly gay and campaigned for the "yes" campaign, fought back tears as he spoke of his delight.

Nearly 80 per cent of eligible voters took part in the poll, with the "yes" vote winning a majority in all of Australia's states and territories.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who backed the "yes" camp, hailed the result of the non-binding vote and vowed to pass a Bill legalising marriage equality "before Christmas".

Australians "voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love", Mr Turnbull said. "Now it is up to us... to get on with the job the Australian people have tasked us to do and get this done, this year, before Christmas."

Within hours of the vote result, Mr Dean Smith, a senator from Turnbull's Liberal Party who is gay, introduced a Bill that would legalise gay marriage while allowing religious institutions and clergy to refuse to celebrate same-sex unions if they conflict with their beliefs.

Opponents in Mr Turnbull's party have pressed for more extensive religious protections to allow commercial service providers to reject same-sex weddings and let parents pull their children from school programmes they feel undermine heterosexual traditions.

"No" campaigners said they would continue speaking out.

"In a democracy, just because you win doesn't mean you... bulldoze forward," said Senator Eric Abetz, a prominent "no" campaigner. - AFP