Saturday 17 November 2018

In Pictures: Rainbow celebrations as Australians vote for same-sex marriage

  • PM says same-sex marriage legislation by end 2017
  • U.S. TV host Ellen DeGeneres, Olympian Ian Thorpe welcome vote
  • Rainbow celebrations in Sydney, Melbourne
  • Catholic church disappointed in 'yes' vote
Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a pub located on Sydney's Oxford street, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore
Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a pub located on Sydney's Oxford street, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore
A supporter of the 'Yes' vote holds a colourful flag as he celebrates after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Australian government senator Dean Smith, center, flanked by lawmakers who support marriage equality, speaks to journalists at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Smith has drafted the prime minister's referred bill that could legalize same-sex marriage this year. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote hug each other as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
People celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Melbourne, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Melanie Burton
Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a pub located on Sydney's Oxford street, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore
People celebrate after the announcement of the same-sex marriage postal survey result in front of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (David Crosling/AAP Image via AP)
People celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reacts as he speaks during a media conference regarding the outcome of the Marriage Equality survey in Canberra, Australia, November 15, 2017. AAP/Dean Lewins/via REUTERS
Ian Thorpe, former Olympic gold medalist swimmer, stands with other supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

Colin Packham and Tom Westbrook

Australians have voted overwhelmingly for same-sex marriage, paving the way for legislation by the end of 2017 and sparking rainbow celebrations on Wednesday, with people wearing wedding dresses and sequined suits and declaring "our love is real".

Australia will become the 26th nation to formalise the unions if the legislation is passed by parliament, which is expected despite some vocal opposition within the government's conservative right wing.

Thousands of people in a central Sydney park broke into a loud cheer, hugged and cried as Australia's chief statistician revealed live over a big screen that 61.6 percent of voters surveyed favoured marriage equality, with 38.4 percent against.

Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, who came out as gay three years ago, said the result was a huge relief.

A supporter of the 'Yes' vote holds a colourful flag as he celebrates after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A supporter of the 'Yes' vote holds a colourful flag as he celebrates after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

"It means that the way you feel for another person, whoever that may be, is equal," Thorpe told reporters at the Sydney celebrations.

The voluntary poll is non-binding but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately said he would fulfill a pledge to raise a bill in parliament with the aim of passing laws by Christmas.

Supporters of the 'Yes' vote hug each other as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote hug each other as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

Turnbull played down concerns of a split in his coalition government over the policy as the conservative faction presses for amendments to protect religious freedoms that discriminate against same-sex couples.

"It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming. They have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra after the survey results were announced. "They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love."

The result marks a watershed moment for gay rights in Australia, where it was illegal in some states to engage in homosexual activity until 1997.

"It's a g'day. Way to go Australia," tweeted U.S. TV host Ellen DeGeneres, who is married to Australian actress Portia de Rossi in the United States.

Supporters of the 'Yes' vote react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Melbourne, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Melanie Burton
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Melbourne, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Melanie Burton

Almost 80 percent of the country's eligible voters took part in the survey - a higher voter turnout than Britain's Brexit vote and Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum.

Mark Barry, 59, wiped away tears as he took in the result with his partner of 35 years, Gerrard Boller.

Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a pub located on Sydney's Oxford street, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore
Members of Sydney's gay community react as they celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a pub located on Sydney's Oxford street, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore

"I know a celebrant who is going to be very happy about this," Barry told Reuters.

Irish-born Qantas Airways Chief Executive Alan Joyce, one of the few openly gay business leaders in Australia, told the Sydney crowd, many of whom sheltered from the hot sun under rainbow umbrellas, that the result was "an amazing outcome" and urged Turnbull to move quickly on legislation.

Turnbull, under pressure amid a citizenship crisis that has cost him his deputy and the government's majority in parliament, finds his leadership tested again as the marriage equality bill enters parliament, possibly as early as later on Wednesday.

The conservatives' planned amendments to the bill would allow private businesses to refuse services like wedding cakes for same-sex weddings by objecting on religious grounds.

People celebrate after the announcement of the same-sex marriage postal survey result in front of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (David Crosling/AAP Image via AP)
People celebrate after the announcement of the same-sex marriage postal survey result in front of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. (David Crosling/AAP Image via AP)

But political analysts said the resounding "yes" vote presented Turnbull with his first opportunity in months to exert decisive control. At least one of the conservative lawmakers has announced plans to switch to supporting the legislation, given the strength of the public vote.

Nick Economou, a political scientist at Monash University, said Turnbull "should feel emboldened by the result and this is the sort of thing he has been looking for to show some assertive leadership".

The 'no' campaign had sought to leverage powerful local religious organisations in a survey campaign that was criticised by some in the 'yes' camp as divisive and aggressive.

Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said he was "deeply disappointed that the likely result will be legislation to further deconstruct marriage and family in Australia."

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