Australians decisively support same-sex marriage

CANBERRA: Australians have voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in a historic non-binding poll.

The vote showed 61.6 per cent of people favour allowing same-sex couples to wed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said, BBC reported on Wednesday.

More than 12.7 million people — about 79.5 per cent of eligible voters — took part in the eight-week postal survey.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the “overwhelming” result meant his government would aim to change the law in parliament before Christmas.

“Australians have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality,” he said after the result was announced.

“They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love. And now it is up to us here in the parliament of Australia to get on with it.”

Supporters began celebrating the result in public spaces across Australia on Wednesday, waving rainbow flags and singing and dancing.

“This is an amazing outcome and we should all be very proud of this amazing country,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, a prominent same-sex marriage supporter, told a jubilant crowd in Sydney.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a high-profile same-sex marriage opponent, said the parliament should “respect the result”.

“I always said this was an issue where the Australian people wanted their say and today`s result demonstrates that seeking their views was the right thing to do,” he wrote on Facebook.

Turnbull, a strong same-sex marriage supporter, is facing debate within his government over what the parliamentary bill should include.

Some conservative MPs are pushing for the the bill to include exemptions that would allow businesses opposed to same-sex marriage to refuse goods and services for weddings.