Australia is one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage.
Just two weeks after Australians overwhelmingly endorsed same-sex marriage in a nationwide write-in survey, the Australian Senate acted accordingly on Wednesday, easily approving a bill to allow the practice by a vote of 43-12.
The bill passed after lawmakers rejected amendments by conservatives that would legally protect people who refuse to provide professional services to same-sex couples on religious grounds, including lay ministers and civil celebrants, as well as vendors like caterers and florists.
"We are a part of an act of acceptance, an act of inclusion, an act of respect, an act of celebration" said openly gay Senator Penny Wong in a speech before the vote. Wong said the law signals to Australia's gay, lesbian and transgender community that "this country accepts you for who you are. Your love is not lesser, and nor are you."
The bill will be taken up next week by the lower House of Representatives, where it is also expected to be easily approved. Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has vowed to have the bill approved before Christmas.
Turnbull initiated the write-in vote on same-sex marriage after lawmakers rejected a plan to hold a compulsory vote known as a plebiscite. About 62 percent of the 12 million Australians who returned their ballots voted "yes" on legalizing same-sex marriage.