SYDNEY ― A nationwide survey on the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia came back with sweeping support on Wednesday, ending a monthslong campaign for equality that has stoked widespread anxiety in the country’s LGBTQ community. The issue will now go to the Australian Parliament. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised an official vote to legalize marriage equality by the end of the year.
In the survey, 61.6 percent of Australians voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no. More than 12.7 million people responded to the voluntary postal survey, a nationwide response rate of nearly 80 percent.
“They voted yes to fairness. They voted yes to commitment. They voted yes to love,” Turnbull said at a press conference in Canberra following the vote. “It is up to us, here in the Parliament in Australia to get on with it ... This was an unprecedented exercise in democracy.”
Most members of the Australian parliament ― some 70 percent in both houses ― have said they will vote yes on a same-sex marriage vote were the results from the survey to come back with a “yes,” according to a survey from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The results sparked an immediate outpouring of support within Australia and abroad.
The non-compulsory poll had been a contentious political exercise since it was announced earlier this year. Many marriage equality allies had urged Parliament to vote on the issue itself, citing the high cost of the postal vote and saying it would amplify divisive, harmful opinions on a national stage during the survey period.
Many of those fears proved true, and Australia’s statistician, David Kalisch, said Wednesday the survey would end up costing more than $75 million (although that cost is lower than the $97 million budgetary limit).
Representatives behind both the “yes” and “no” campaigns were also accused of alienating respondents, and at one point, campaigners against marriage equality paid for a skywriter to scrawl “Vote No” in the skies above Sydney. In September, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wrote on Twitter that his godson had been punched in an altercation related to the survey.
Turnbull on Wednesday reiterated his calls for a parliamentary vote before Christmas on same-sex marriage “to get on with the job the Australian people have asked us to do.”
Two draft bills, introduced by separate members of the right-leaning Liberal Party, to bring the issue before the government are currently circulating, both of which include some religious protections. But it’s unclear what the final marriage legislation will look like.
If passed, Australia will become the 26th country to legalize same-sex marriage.