Millions of Australians voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, prompting celebrations to breakout in Melbourne and other major cities. There’s been a long fight for marriage equality down under, one that’s frequently and recently grown nasty as queer Australians clash with their more traditional neighbors. The recent vote was part of an expensive and far-reaching two-month national postal survey. Now the results have ruffled not only the 38% of Australians against same-sex marriage but also conservative lawmakers who want to stop the legalization process from coming to fruition.
Even some GBLTQ Australians were against having the vote in the first place, fearing an already divisive national conversation that would lead to gays and lesbians being further targeted. Some argued that the government already had the information it needed and was simply avoiding an inevitable battle in Parliament. “We didn’t want the vote in the first place but we are so happy to have this win for our friends and the whole community,” said Jacob Holman, who married his husband in Scotland in 2015.
Others were skeptical of the postal survey due to the expense and logistics involved. Many Australians live in remote areas, and not all speak English. To fully disseminate the survey, versions had to be recorded in 14 Aboriginal languages and taken to scattered small towns and outposts. However, it seems love has won for now. There are even a few top lawmakers who are celebrating, including Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, who became very emotional over the results. “I love this city like you do,” he said and called his constituents “a pack of bloody champions.” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, too, is willing to back up the will of the people.
There’s one catch, however. The vote is non-binding, meaning exactly how same-sex marriage will be legislated is still up for decision and debate. Conservatives want any amendment to the Marriage Act to also address religious freedoms, such as the ability of business owners to refuse to participate in services for gay weddings. Supporters of same-sex marriage simply want to ensure lawmakers actually get the job done after such a long, drawn-out debate but are cautious of any measures that would prolong the process. Still, it’s a promising victory for queer Australians.