In a landmark decision by the Australian public, the ‘Yes’ vote to change the Marriage Act 1961 to legalise same-sex marriage trumped those against the proposed amendments with a 61.6%/38.4% result, announced on 15 November 2017.
While many were rejoicing at the outcome of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, the scope and extent of the changes to be made to the Marriage Act 1961 were still up in the air, with an active debate continuing between the political parties concerning the wording to be used, the nature and extent of religious protections to be included as well as how refusals and objections to participating in a same-sex marriage is to be dealt with, particularly in light of Attorney-General George Brandis’ comment that an amendment which allowed both civil and religious celebrants to refuse to marry same-sex couples would have his support.
In its last sitting for the year on 29 November 2017, the Senate passed the bill to legalise same-sex marriage with 43 votes in favour of the bill, and only 12 votes opposing it.
Despite debate about proposed amendments to the bill, in particular, the creation of two separate definitions of marriage in order to ‘preserve’ the traditional definition, it was passed by the Senate in its complete form, with the definition of marriage under the bill as “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others”.
However there remains a final hurdle wherein the bill must pass through the House of Representatives, at which point the debate could be reignited and amendments may still be made to the proposed legislation, including the definition of marriage.
Labour’s leader in the Senate, Ms Penny Wong was ecstatic with the result, stating “Today we stand on the cusp of a remarkable achievement and an historic event, and we pause briefly to reflect, just for a moment, on what we are a part of.”
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