November 15, 2017 at 12:02 am PST | by Michael K. Lavers
Australians back same-sex marriage in national vote, clearing path for legalization

A majority of Australians who voted on a non-binding plebiscite on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples have voted “yes.” (Image by Fry1989; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Australia is poised to become the next country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples after a majority of voters who took part in a non-binding plebiscite voted “yes.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said 61.6 percent of voters said gays and lesbians should be able to marry in the country, compared to 38.4 percent of voters who voted “no.” Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the voluntary plebiscite.

The New York Times reported gay MP Dean Smith plans to introduce a same-sex marriage bill, which observers expect will pass the Australian Parliament before the end of the year. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — who called for the plebiscite — in a video statement urged lawmakers “to get on with it and get this done before Christmas.”

“The Australian people have had their say and they have voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality,” said Turnbull. “They voted overwhelmingly for fairness, for commitment, for love.”

Supporters of marriage rights for same-sex couples who were gathered in Sydney, Melbourne and other Australian cities celebrated the plebiscite results. Kylie Minogue, who is from Australia, on her Twitter page said “love is love, always was love, always will be love.”

“The people of Australia haven’t just said yes, they’ve roared yes,” Tiernan Brady, the director of the “yes” campaign, told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Sydney. “It’s just literally an incredibly result.”

“It is time to pass the law,” he added.

Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a statement said his organization congratulates “Australia’s LGBTQ advocates and allies who worked so hard to ensure a victory in this postal survey.”

“It’s crucial that loving, committed same-sex couples in Australia have the same rights and protections that come with marriage,” he added. “We urge the Australian Parliament to take swift action ensuring marriage equality becomes the law of the land.”

Gay Panama lawyer: Australians ‘have sent a message’

Same-sex couples can legally marry in the U.S., Canada, Mexico City and a number of states in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Barts, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Scotland, the Isle of Man, England, Wales, Guernsey, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Gibraltar, Malta, South Africa and New Zealand.

The Taiwanese Constitutional Court in May issued a landmark ruling that said same-sex couples can legally marry in two years if lawmakers fail to act on the issue. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in August introduced a bill that would extend marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

The Australia plebiscite results were announced less than a week after hundreds of activists from across the Western Hemisphere attended a conference in Costa Rica that focused on same-sex marriage in Latin America.

Iván Chanis Barahona, a gay Panamanian lawyer who is working with the plaintiffs in two marriage lawsuits that are before the Central American country’s Supreme Court, is among those who attended the Costa Rica conference. Chanis, who is president of Fundación Iguales, a Panamanian advocacy group, in a press release said Australians have recognized that “their gay and lesbian neighbors and friends should be able to have the same aspirations and opportunities in live as everyone else.”

“Australians have sent a message to their Parliament that says everyone in Australia should be treated equally under the law, including the option to be able to marry the person they love,” he said.

Iván Chanis Barahona is a gay Panamanian lawyer who is spearheading efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in his Central American country. He is among the same-sex marriage activists around the world who have applauded the results of the Australia’s non-binding plebiscite on the issue. (Photo courtesy of Iván Chanis Barahona)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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