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World
15 Nov 2017

Australia votes yes for gay marriage rights

Australia has voted overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage, with 61.6% voting yes.

Once the parliament follows through, it will become the 26th country in the world to legalize gay marriage.

The poll saw a turnout of almost 80%- higher than Brexit (72%) and Ireland's same-sex referendum (60%).

People were seen bursting into cheers, hugging and crying as the results were announced.

In context

Australia votes for gay marriage
Australian states had the death penalty for homosexuality till recently

History

Australian states had the death penalty for homosexuality till recently

When the British colonized Australia towards the end of the 18th century, they introduced anti-gay laws.

Sodomy was punishable by death penalty in Australia's southern Victoria state till as late as 1949.

But in 1975, bold legislative changes came as South Australia decriminalized male homosexuality.

Twenty-two years later, Tasmania became Australia's last state to follow through.

Controversy

The voluntary national postal ballot drew much criticism

As the debate picked up steam, Australia proposed a voluntary poll. It was controversial for more than one reason.

For one, estimates said the survey would cost 122mn AUD ($97mn).

Moreover, unlike Australia's compulsory elections, it was voluntary, raising speculations many wouldn't even respond and deem the whole process fruitless.

The campaigns were hate-filled; Nazi symbols made an appearance and controversial ads drew ire.

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PM Turnbull urges citizens to vote yes

New hate speech laws were introduced but Australians weren't demotivated

Poll

New hate speech laws were introduced but Australians weren't demotivated

Australia even got new hate speech laws, though temporarily: anyone threatening or vilifying another was liable to be fined upto AUD$12,600 ($10,103).

The Australian High Court eventually allowed the postal ballot to proceed. Citizens were asked one question: "Should the marriage law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?"

Voting opened on September 12 and closed on November 7. 12.7mn Australians participated.

Aftermath

What does this mean for Australia?

This doesn't necessarily mean legalization: many Parliament members have committed to opposing marriage equality legislation.

But this paves the way for legalization. Within hours, billboards reminding lawmakers of their promise to decriminalize same-sex marriage came up.

Attorney General Goerge Bandis said he expected a change in the Marriage Act by Christmas.

If that happens, Australia will be the 26th country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Ellen DeGeneres congratulates Australia on poll results

What about gay rights in India?

India

What about gay rights in India?

In India, Section 377 criminalizes homosexuality, but the SC's ruling on privacy has opened the doors for challenging discriminatory laws.

The social taboo associated with being gay has also somewhat lessened in big cities. Meanwhile, LGBT events have also made their way to smaller towns like Lucknow, Bhopal and Guwahati too.

A petition against Section 377 is currently pending in the SC.

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