Christmas comes early for the LGBTI community, as Australia becomes the 26th country to legalize same-sex marriage. As of Saturday, 9 December, gay and lesbian couples can lodge a notice of intended marriage, and exactly one month later the same-sex marriage bill will come into effect.
Last week the same-sex marriage bill easily passed in the Senate with 43 senators in favour and only 12 against the piece of legislation. After hours of gruelling debate on Thursday night, the House of Representatives passed the same law with no changes and only four MPs voting against the bill.
Conservatives efforts to allow commercial service providers, such as florists and bakers, to refuse same-sex weddings were rejected and Attorney General, George Brandis, motion to allow civil celebrants to reject same-sex weddings was also defeated. Only religious bodies and religious marriage celebrants will be able to act in accordance with their beliefs about marriage.
The passing of this legislation sees Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull keep his promise to legalize same-sex marriage by the end of the year after the national plebiscite resulted in a resounding 61.9% ‘yes’ vote. Although there have been numerous surveys conducted in the past to prove a majority of Australians are in favour of same-sex marriage, and the marriage act has been amended multiple times without a national vote, the Australian government still thought spending $90 million on a plebiscite was a necessary measure. However, despite the delay, the LGBTI community can finally rejoice, as they now have the legal right to marry the one they truly love.
The LGBTI community has endured a harsh and turbulent history in Australia. For decades homosexuality was considered a criminal offence with many linking it to paedophilia. Homosexuals and transgender people have also faced consistent discrimination in the workplace, and often been fired for their sexual orientation. In the 1950s, shock therapy was considered a legitimate way to medically cure people who identified and embraced their homosexuality. Furthermore, members of the LGBTI community have been attacked and murdered because of their sexual orientation.
As the years have passed, progress has been made to make LGBTI people feel more accepted in society. Since 1978, Sydney has hosted the Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras festival, as a way to celebrate the diverse range of sexuality. In 1995, Tasmania became the final state to decriminalize homosexuality. In 2013, the ACT government briefly legalized same-sex marriage before the Federal Government led by Tony Abbott at the time, overruled the legislation. On 15 November, 2017, 12 million Australians voted ‘yes’ for marriage equality in a national plebiscite, and on 8 December, the same-sex marriage bill was passed. This historic piece of legislation reaffirms the idea that, no matter the obstacles that lay before us, love will always win.