Find out what's happening in the world as it unfolds. Thousands attended a rally calling for a yes vote in Melbourne on August CNN Australia is the closest it has ever been to legalizing same-sex marriage. On November 15, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed Australia's parliament will now debate how to turn the people's choice into law, but it could be more complicated than it sounds.
Conservative politician and "no" advocates are calling for extensive religious protections in any bill legalizing same-sex marriage. Read More It's been a long process -- a national vote was first proposed by the government in , when Australia was already far behind many other English-speaking nations when it comes to same-sex unions.
So why is the issue so divisive in Australia? What do Australians think about gay marriage? Almost every poll in the past decade has shown a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage. As early as , polling showed a majority of Australians were in favor of allowing marriage for same-sex couples. Since then, poll after poll has shown the same thing. Gay rights in Australia haven't always been fast to arrive -- homosexual sex was illegal in parts of Australia up until -- but on marriage equality their opinion now seems clear.
Why is it taking so long? In , then-prime minister John Howard changed the Marriage Act to clarify the definition of marriage as "the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. In , outspoken conservative and former trainee priest Tony Abbott became prime minister, apparently eliminating all hope of same-sex marriage during his term in office.
Vows we can't make: The faces of Australia's same-sex marriage ban To hold the plebiscite, the government needed money and to get that money it need to pass legislation through Australia's parliament. Two attempts at passing legislation in and failed after the opposition Labor party and Greens party helped block it, calling for a simple parliamentary vote legalizing marriage equality instead.
After the last attempt, the government, now under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, said it would instead hold a national postal vote Speaking prior to Thursday's landmark result, Tiernan Brady, executive director at the Equality Campaign, told CNN that the decision to hold a postal vote was about "the world of politics, not the Australian people.
Australians to get vote on legalizing same-sex marriage, PM says Why were same-sex marriage advocates opposed to the vote? Campaigners feared the survey would provoke a brutal and vicious campaign against same-sex marriage by opponents could be damaging to LGBT people. They said the issue should be decided by parliament, which could in theory to legalize same-sex marriage at any time. Lawmaker likens same-sex marriage to his friendship with cycling buddies "Australians are able and have demonstrated that they can have a respectful discussion," he said.
Many of their concerns, however, were largely born out during the two-month campaign, which saw rainbow flags painted with Nazi symbols , advertisements stoking fears of "radical" gay sex education and supporters being abused in person and online. Prior to the vote, a court challenge by gay marriage proponents tried to stop it taking place, saying the postal vote was unnecessary and a waste of public funds.
But a unanimous vote by Australia's High Court on September 7 allowed the vote to go ahead. Australia is not the first country to have a national vote on same-sex marriage -- Ireland voted to legalize marriage equality in Unlike Australian federal elections, where voting is compulsory, the postal vote was voluntary and also non-binding. This means the government is not legally obliged to do anything and will have to pass legislation to make same-sex marriage law.
Australia to vote on same-sex marriage, after court challenge fails After the vote, Turnbull pledged to have marriage equality legislation passed by the parliament by Christmas, but several conservative politicians have already said they'd vote against same-sex unions despite the result. The prime minister has repeatedly said his government was obligated to carry out a national vote as that was what he had promised voters at the last election. Weak leaders break them You heard me, again, say again and again that every Australian will have a say on this issue," he told journalists in August.
Opposition Labor party leader Bill Shorten also promised after the result to make same-sex marriage law quickly, saying Australia was "overwhelmingly" ready.