The results of Australia’s first same sex marriage plebiscite have revealed 61 percent of over 7.8 million Australians voted yes, leaving the future legal status of gay marriage in the hands of parliament.
In a press conference this morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it is the government’s job now “to get on with it” to legalise same sex marriage and is confident that the matter will be resolved by the end of the year.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten shared his support for Australia’s decision, delivering an emphatic address to crowds in Melbourne today saying that this marriage equality survey shows that “unconditional love is always the last word”.
“Today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate,” he said.
Member of the Greek and Gay network, John, was in tears as the verdict was delivered Wednesday morning.
He said the last few months have been personally challenging for him, and his crying was also a sign of relief.
“It’s as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders all in a few seconds,” John told Neos Kosmos.
“It’s been a difficult time and I think the fact we’ve now got this, it will start changing views, and I think that’s the most important thing.”
John, who calls himself a late bloomer – having married first and had children – came out at 34. He says the coming out process has been ongoing for 20 years.
“[The postal vote] is not just about marriage. I think that it stretches beyond that, a large proportion of people accept that we have the same rights and that we are part of the community,” he said.
“We’re not an extreme part of the community. We are part of everyday life. And I think there’s that acknowledgement that’s come through today.”
While he has no desire to get married again, he thinks the yes vote is a very important step forward. It has been a very difficult road.
“We do have a lot of rights in Australia as gay and lesbian people, but this final hurdle just cements everything else.”
But same sex marriage has not always been supported by some members of the Greek community.
SBS reported that earlier this year an encyclical by the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, Archbishop Stylianos said that the postal vote “constitutes a sacred and inviolable obligation for all of us, excluding no one, to record ‘NO’ on the relative Postal Survey Form, and to express ‘with one mouth and one heart’ our absolute objection to such an unholy Legislation, which would put at risk the interests of the Family and Marriage for the whole society.”
However Adam Rorris, coordinator of the Australia-Greece solidarity campaign says it is unfortunate that those “right-wing forces” within this country were able to “hoodwink” many ordinary people from different communities into such a divisive position on an issue that concerns human rights.
“The only reason that it happened was because far-right political forces in this country needed an issue to build a political base, to identify people they are now going to pursue so they can pursue their other political objectives,” Mr Rorris said.
Mr Rorris said the results were unsurprising and are a welcome development and confirmation of what they knew was the general sentiment of the Australian population.
“Clearly the majority of Australians think it’s a good thing and a positive change and I would say even a long overdue change,” he said.
“I think this is a change which will affect many same sex people and it’s a positive … It will simply grant human rights, without discrimination, based on a person’s sexuality. That has got to be a good thing in any society.”
The Senate sits this week, and then both houses return on November 27 for a two-week sitting to end the year, in which time MPs will need to agree on how to legalise same sex marriage.
This article appeared in print and online at Neos Kosmos.