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Australia same-sex marriage

Australia's Parliament voted to allow same-sex marriages

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Australia’s Parliament on Thursday voted to allow same-sex marriage nationwide, concluding an initially fierce debate over the subject there.

The public gallery in Australia’s House of Representatives on Thursday erupted in applause when a bill allowing the practice pass.

The legislation passed with a majority that was not challenged, although five lawmakers voiced their opposition.

The measure changes the definition of marriage in Australia from solely a man and a woman to “a union of two people” excluding all others.

Thursday’s vote follows the same legislation making it through Australia’s Senate last week 43 votes to 12.

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The law legalizing same-sex marriage in Australia will likely take effect in roughly a month following royal assent and other formalities.

The first same-sex weddings are now expected in January, and Australia’s government has also appointed a panel on examining how to protect religious freedoms once the practice starts.

“It’s a historic day for Australia today and I think the celebrations around the country when we finally … achieve marriage equality are going to be immense,” Janet Rice, a minor Greens party senator, said before Thursday’s vote.

Janet Rice was only able to remain married to her transgender wife of 31 years before Thursday’s vote as Penny Rice remained listed as a male on her birth certificate.

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Australia’s government circulated a postal survey nationwide last month polling voters about whether or not they supporting allowing same-sex marriage.

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Same-sex marriage was endorsed by 62 percent of Australian voters who responded to the postal ballot.

The new bill allows churches and religious organizations to boycott gay weddings, however, without violating Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

Existing civil celebrants can also refuse to officiate such ceremonies, but those who register after same-sex marriage is legalized would not be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

Lawmakers pushing for marriage equality argued that last month’s survey only mandated changing Australia’s definition of marriage.

Supports subsequently charged that changing Australia’s law on the matter should not be delayed by other considerations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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