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Australia ‘Weeks Away’ From Legalizing Gay Marriage

FILE - Supporters of the 'Yes' vote for marriage equality celebrate after it was announced the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage in a national survey, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year, at a rally in central Sydney, Australia, November 15, 2017.

Campaigners expect the Australian parliament to legalize same sex marriage in early December. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to change the law to allow gay couples to marry after Australians voted overwhelmingly for change in a historic postal survey.

This week history was made in Australia. Almost 8 million people - or about 62 per cent of those who took part in a postal survey - decided that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

The result of the ballot is not legally binding, but Australia’s center-right Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is promising to act by Christmas to introduce a law that will allow all couples regardless of gender or sexual preference to pop the champagne and be wed.

Turnbull said Australians had “voted overwhelmingly for fairness and commitment.”

In Sydney, 89-year old John Challis is planning to marry his partner, Arthur Cheeseman, who is 85. They have been in a relationship for 48 years, and have been desperate to marry before they die.

Challis hopes that his wedding will be part of a double celebration.

“I have got a 90th birthday coming up next year," he said. "We might sort of combine it with that. But as I have said before one of the important things for us is to have this marriage certificate because it affects the way in which our superannuation (retirement income) could play out. (It) gives us, I think, a new dignity, a new status, a new place in society. We are the same as everyone else.”

Opponents of marriage reform in Australia insisted that allowing gay people to marry would threaten religious freedoms, destabilize society and expose children to ‘radical’ views on homosexuality in the classroom.

4.9 million Australians did vote ‘no’, so those dissenting voices are a significant minority.

Australia inherited anti-gay laws from British settlers, who arrived in the late 1700s. Until 1949 the death penalty remained on the statue books for sodomy in the southern state of Victoria, but change did eventually come in 1975, when South Australia declared that male homosexuality would no longer be a crime. It would take the island state of Tasmania another 22 years to do the same. Female homosexuality was never criminalized.

Following this week’s decisive vote in favor of reform, gay marriage should be legal in Australia within weeks.