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World
07 Dec 2017

Australia passes historic law legalizing gay marriage

Australia becomes 25th country to legalize gay marriage

It was a historic day in Australia as the Parliament cleared a Bill legalizing gay marriage to much cheers.

145 MPs voted to change the Marriage Act, eight days after a similar decision in the Senate; four voted against.

However, there's still time before gay couples can marry.

This makes Australia the 25th nation to legalize same-sex marriage, says the Marriage Equality campaign group.

In context

Australia becomes 25th country to legalize 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.

Vote

Australia's gay marriage vote saw more turnout than Brexit!

On November 15, Australia announced the results of a two-month poll: 61.6% said yes to same-sex marriage.

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

Though the campaign was hate-filled (Nazi symbols and controversial ads made appearances), the end was joyful: people were seen bursting into cheers, hugging and crying as the results were announced.

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Incidents

The two weeks since have seen heart-warming tokens of celebration

In the two weeks since, Australia has seen some interesting developments, like when MP Tim Wilson proposed to his gay partner Ryan Bolger during a Parliamentary debate on the matter. It was a first.

Meanwhile, SKYN Condoms offered a 61.6% discount on all products on its online store for some time; the '61.6%' was a reference to those who had voted yes.

Bill

So what's changed after the new Bill?

As the Parliament debated the Bill, 57 senators spoke for about 28 hours on the issue. The Bill includes exemptions for registered religious celebrants, who will have the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples.

However, all other proposed amendments were shot down.

After its passage, marriage in Australia will "no longer be determined by sex or gender", said Senator George Brandis.

Thousands will find themselves automatically married

Implications

Thousands will find themselves automatically married

The reforms will take effect on December 9, 2017. Considering the one-month notice period that couples have to serve before a marriage is solemnized, Australia can see its first legal gay marriages on January 9, 2018.

Interestingly, since the Bill applies retrospectively, thousands of couples who have married overseas (Britain, US, Canada, the Netherlands and more) will find themselves immediately married in Australia.

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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