Canberra, Nov 15 (IANS) Rainbow flags fluttered and champagne corks flew into the air amid tears of joy during celebrations across Australia on Wednesday following a resounding “yes” vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
Large public gatherings in major cities, including Sydney and Melbourne, saw marriage proposals with people turning up in wedding dresses as the country learned that 61.6 per cent of participants voted for same-sex marriage.
Couples kissed and friends embraced — some in relief and others in jubilation. More than 12.7 million people across the country, or 79.5 per cent of the population, took part in the survey with every state and territory returning a majority “yes”, SBS Australia reported.
Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it had been an “overwhelming” response and called for same-sex marriage to be legalised before Christmas. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love. And now it is up to us here in the Parliament of Australia to get on with it,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The results released earlier in the day by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that 38 per cent voted against same-sex marriage. Voting had opened on September 12 and Australians who had registered to vote had until November 7 to return their surveys.
In Melbourne, 5,000 people outside the State Library of Victoria cheered and danced to Kylie Minogue’s “Celebration”. In Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park, musician John Paul Young sang “Love is in the Air”.
Swimming champion Ian Thorpe, actor Magda Szubanski, Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce and Labour leader in the Senate Penny Wong were among those overcome with emotion and keen to share their joy with fellow Australians.
“I am pleased I have been able to be part of it. I feel it’s right not only for the LGBTI community but for the Australian community as well,” Thorpe said.
The Qantas CEO said: “Today I am even more proud of Australia, the country of my selection.”
“We now send a message from the Australian people to get on with it… we needed to be delivered and we needed to be delivered fast. Get on and do it, Mr Turnbull.”
Celebrities, including Minogue, Ellen DeGeneres — married to Australian-American Portia de Rossi, Apple boss Tim Cook, Canadian leader Justin Trudeau and former British Premier David Cameron, tweeted congratulations.
Christine Forster, the sister of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott — she is in a same-sex relationship and is a long-term supporter of marriage equality, while he is an opponent — celebrated the decision.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” 35-year-old James Mead said as tears streamed down his face.
In Perth, Jonathon Mann was accompanied by his friend, Ally White, to hear the announcement. “For me, it’s so good to know that one of my great mates Jon can have the same rights as me and get married,” White said before the pair hugged.
Meanwhile, rain did not stop “yes” supporters from celebrating at Hindmarsh Square in Adelaide. “It’s an extraordinary relief for those of us who have been supporting marriage equality for an extended period of time,” South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said.
Politicians are expected to begin discussing the specifics of the same-sex marriage bill as early as this week, the SBS reported.
The two-month campaign was marred by harsh rhetoric and wild allegations of the consequences of a “yes” vote. Rainbow flags were sprayed with Nazi symbols in Brisbane while “no” advertisements claimed same-sex marriage would lead to “radical gay sex” education in schools.
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