Australians voted in favor of allowing same-sex couples to get married, with nearly 62% of respondents to a postal survey voting “Yes”, according to results released on Wednesday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In total, 38.4% voted against it. Every state and territory voted Yes. Only 17 electorates voted No.
The result is non-binding; but with 61.6% of 12.7 million people (or 79.5% of the population) voting in favor of marriage equality in the two-month voluntary survey, the Malcolm Turnbull government has pledged to legalize same-sex marriage by Christmas.
Speaking after the release of the result, Australia Prime Minister Turnbull said that it had been an “overwhelming” response in favor of “yes” and called for same-sex marriage to be legalized before Christmas. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love. And now it is up to us here in the Parliament of Australia to get on with it,” he said to reporters in Australian capital Canberra.
Voting opened on September 12 and Australians who had registered to vote had until November 7 to return their surveys.
But the struggle isn’t over, as politicians are expected to start discussing the specifics of the marriage equality bill. Already, conservative politicians in the Australian parliament are preparing for a fight over how marriage equality will be legalized.
The number of same sex couples in Australia has been growing. There were more than 47,000 same sex couples counted in the 2016 census, up from 33,000 in 2011 and 26,000 in 2006 (81% increase in 10 years). LGBT people in Australia are already afforded some rights when in de factor relationships, though these rights are not the same as those given to married couples.
Incidentally, Filipinos are currently the fourth largest Asian-Australian immigrant group behind Vietnamese Australians, Indian Australians and Chinese Australians. In 2006 census, there were over 160,374 Filipino Australians; though people born in the Philippines comprise a big chunk of local populations, such as 5.9% of the population in the City of Blacktown, making them the largest directly born ethnic group in Blacktown.
In Sydney, Outrage Magazine interviewed Elmer, 40, who is in a de facto relationship with another Filipino. He said that this survey “does not only show Australia’s general consent for same-sex marriage in the country, But it also uplifts, and to a degree, normalizes the same-sex relationship that has been tabooed in many aspects of society.”
As a teacher within the traditional Roman Catholic school system, Elmer said that the Yes result “gives me confidence to unashamedly admit my sexuality to my students and fellow teachers. Often I am placed in a situation where my personal relationship is asked and I often lie, conforming to the traditional Catholic man-woman marriage. And each time do this, I am sickened to the stomach that I have not been true to myself and hence to my faith. As a Christian, I believe that I have a mission to do the acts of love and this includes doing it in many levels, especially being authentic.”
Elmer and his partner do not have immediate plans to wed, but he said that “it is always a possibility, and thank God we now have that option and opportunity.”
*THIS ARTICLE WAS AMENDED ON NOVEMBER 18 TO INCLUDE THE INTERVIEW WITH ELMER