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Australian parliament votes to allow same-sex marriage

The first same-sex weddings in Australia are expected to take place in February 2018.

celebrations
AP

Australia's parliament has voted to allow same-sex marriage across the nation.

The House of Representatives passed the bill to change the definition of marriage from solely between a man and a woman to "a union of two people".

The parliamentary vote followed a non-binding postal survey in which Australians overwhelmingly voted in favour of the change, with a turnout of 79.5%.

The parliamentary votes were not counted because the majority was not questioned.

The law will likely take effect in about a month, with the first weddings expected about a month later.

Amendments meant to safeguard freedoms of speech and religion for gay-marriage opponents were all rejected, though those issues may be considered later.

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PA

The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage is a reality in Australia.

It is now our job as members of Parliament to pass a fair bill that does not extend or create any new discriminations. > It is a strong bill that already strikes the right balance between equality and freedom of religion.
Warren Entsch MP

Penny Wong, an opposition Labor Party senator who has two children with her lesbian partner, said: "I am feeling happy."

The current bill allows churches and religious organizations to boycott gay weddings without violating Australian anti-discrimination laws.

The result is a political win for Malcolm Turnbull, who became prime minister after deposing Tony Abbott in 2015 in an internal government leadership ballot.

Abbott was head-butted by a gay rights advocate during the postal survey campaign in September.

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