Same-sex marriage is legal in Australia

Photo: Scott Barbour/ Getty Images

Same-sex marriage is now legal in Australia after the House of Representatives passed the bill just before 6pm on Thursday, December 7.

The moment many waited for arrived later than they’d hoped and even then it was delayed by a final four minutes when a division was required to count the vote, despite an overwhelming call of yes from the floor of parliament.

“Just two voices?” speaker Tony Smith asked as the call for a count came. Liberal MP Andrew Broad, one of those who tried to amend the bill, is believed to be one of the voices.

With less than five votes for no, Smith did not bother with a count.

“That’s it,” he said, as applause erupted through the house, before the gallery serenaded the MPs with a rendition of “We are Australian”.

Only four MPs voted no. Queensland LNP members David Littleproud and Keith Pitt, Victorian Liberal Russell Broadbent and Queensland independent Bob Katter. Recently re-elected Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who announced during the debate that he had separated from his wife, abstained. Tony Abbott left the chamber before the count.

Before the final vote, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was a great day for Australia.

“What a day! What a day for love, for quality, for respect. Australia has done it. Every Australian had their say and they said it is fair, get on with it!” he said.

“We have voted today for equality, for love. It is time for more marriages, more commitment, more love, more respect, and we respect every Australian who has voted, those who voted yes, and those who voted no, this belongs to us all, this is Australia!”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said LGBTIQ people were equal under the law “at long last”.

“And those of us in Parliament privileged to serve, we understand that we do so with humility. The humility to recognise that the passage of this law does not in essence belong to us, but the credit for the passage of this law belongs to all Australians and I say to those who voted no, I recognise that now is the time for healing, to put this debate behind us,” he said.

The Labor leader said the passing of the marriage equality law was not a gift to LGBTIQ Australians.

“Equality is never a gift to be given. Equality is the inalienable birthright of every Australian and this equality is long overdue,” he said.

“I say the gift that LGBTIQ Australians have given all of us is that we are a nation who includes all of our people, who values all relationships and all families, that we are a better nation altogether.

“So, as it is written: ‘there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens’. It is now a time to heal, a time to build, a time to laugh, a time to embrace, a time to love. And now, at last, a time for marriage equality.”

Greens MP Adam Bandt had the final say before the vote, saying: “What a big day for love because, despite the years of bigotry and hate, and despite the years of violence and lies, and the ignorance and fear, love has won and it is time to pop the bubbly.

“I’m going to keep it short and sweet. Because it is time to let the bells ring and let the people sing because love has won!”

While the bill was passed by the senate last week without amendments, the historic moment was delayed from an expected decision by 1.30pm today as the lower house dealt with nine sets of amendments, including from the Greens, treasurer Scott Morrison, and former prime minister Tony Abbott over issues such as religious freedom and what’s become known as the rights of various people to “conscientiously object” (a term that normally refers to refusing to serve in the military) – from celebrants to cake bakers – to participating in a same-sex wedding.

Debate ran today from 9.30am to 1.30pm, then was suspended to deal with other matters, including question time before resuming just after 3pm.

The public gallery was packed and applause has broken out as each set of amendments was defeated.

All the changes were defeated by considerable margins. The treasurer’s amendments involved concerns that faith-based charities could have their charity status revoked and funding stripped for opposing same-sex marriage.

Former PM Tony Abbott spoke in favour of the changes, warning “Once same-sex marriage is enshrined in law, on public policy grounds, organisations don’t recognise same-sex marriage could indeed be subject to some kind of official sanction”.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten offered to suspend Question Time at 2pm to continue debate, but the suggestion was rejected by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and debate on the same-sex marriage bill is now expected to resume soon after 3pm, although the Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, suggested it may not start again until 4.15-4.30pm.

Starting debate today Queensland conversative MP Warren Entsch, a long-time advocate for SMM said the proposed legislation “gives so much and takes from no one”.

“It does not need any amendments,” he said.

But Entsch poured scorn on far north Queensland independent MP Bob Katter, for his “pathetic” speech last night saying it was “highly offensive, embarrassing and cringeworthy”.

“His speech exemplifies what the LGBTI community have had to endure to so long,” he said.

Many of those proposing the amendments say they don’t want to delay the passage of the bill, but if the amendments were passed, they would need to return to the Senate for approval, meaning the government would have to recall the Senate next week to approve the changes, or wait until parliament resumes in early February.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie sought a range of amendments, including giving parents the power to remove their children from school classes that mention same-sex marriage. His changes were voted down 87 votes to 56, with Turnbull missing the vote, as he did when Liberal MP Michael Sukkar’s amendments were defeated 99-43.

Liberal MP Alex Hawke sought amendments to protect Defence chaplains from being forced to conduct same-sex marriages. His amendment was defeated 87 votes to 59, with the Prime Minister returning to the chamber to vote with the Hawke proposal.

Attorney-General George Brandis said that from Saturday, December 9, couples will be able “to lodge a notice of intended marriage to commence the one month minimum notice period required before the solemnisation of marriages under the Marriage Act”, meaning the first same-sex marriages could be held on January 9.

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