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Australians celebrate marriage equality vote

Supporters of the "yes" vote for marriage equality celebrate at Melbourne's Result Street Party on November 15, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Jubilation as Australians Vote in Favor of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

While celebrations broke out nationwide, some called for additional legislative efforts to more broadly improve the lives of LGBTQ Australians

Jessica Corbett

Celebrations broke out across Australia on Wednesday after the Bureau of Statistics announced more than 60 percent of the nation's citizens voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Now, it is up to the Australian Parliament to sort out the details.

"The Australian people have spoken," said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the lesbian, gay bisexual, and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch. "Now, the Australian government and parliament should end this period of political indecisiveness and adopt marriage equality legislation immediately. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Australians have been waiting for a long time for marriage equality, and now is the time to deliver."

Nearly 80 percent of Australia's eligible voters participated in the voluntary national postal survey, which simply asked: "Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?" Every state and territory in the country voted "yes," according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called the vote "unequivocal" and "overwhelming," said nationwide marriage equality should be legal before Christmas—challenging lawmakers to "get on with it and get this done."

"Turnbull, same-sex marriage supporters in Australia's ruling Liberal-National party Coalition, the Labor opposition, Greens, and other cross-bench parties have reached a consensus around a cross-party bill that makes minimalist changes to protect religious freedom without legalizing discrimination by commercial service providers, such as cake makers, as some conservatives in the Coalition government have demanded," the Guardian reports.

The bill will be introduced in the Senate on Wednesday and debated on Thursday. Ultimately, the measure is expected to pass, with many lawmakers who oppose marriage equality promising to respect the survey results. The Australian government amended the Marriage Act to ban same-sex marriage in 2004.

Despite the widespread jubilation, some pointed to the nearly 40 percent of voters who oppose marriage equality as a warning that there is much more work to be done to improve the lives of LGBTQ Australians.

In an op-ed published Wednesday by The Independent, Amrou Al-Kadhi wrote:

As I scrolled through the jubilant trends on Twitter this morning, it was this 40 percent that stopped me from partaking in the joy. For this 40 percent is an indication of something much larger than a population's view on marriage legislation—it is an indication that for a huge proportion of people, the LGBTQI+ community is unequal to them. And this, not the ability to get married, is what we should be addressing.

The ecstatic cheers around the world, in truth, rang a little hollow for me. For I fear that the online echoes of triumph mute the social realizations that actually, things are not that equal for LGBTQI+ people. As a queer person of color who struggles with anxiety and depression, "marriage equality" isn't that exciting a victory for me. Constant homophobia and racism throughout my life—and living in a society that systemically isolates queer people and people of color—has led to my lifelong battle with mental health.

"For many people in our communities, the legalization of marriage will not have meaningful effect," Al-Kadhi concluded. "What would, is legislative efforts to make mental health services more readily available for LGBTQI+ people, further strategies to eradicate bullying in school, and meaningful resources to advocate for trans rights."

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