THE “yes” vote has carried the day – and by a resounding margin – although there will be die-hards in the opposing camp who will argue a “no” vote of 38.4 per cent means almost four in ten Australians are still opposed to what will be a landmark legal reform.
But a better way to look at the overall result is to realise that respondents in 133 of 150 Australian electorates voted in favour of the simple, one-sentence proposition: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
The vote can be interpreted any number of ways, but most of all it is a clear signal that Australia is a nation that favours inclusion, fairness and tolerance over conservative, old-school norms that still place heterosexuality above all other forms of physical expression.
It is a vote that says discrimination is wrong, and that the decades-long push for acceptance that led to Stonewall and the gay pride movement has won the overall endorsement of a society that once jailed people for the very behaviour now destined to be further legitimised through marriage.
It is worthy of note that every electorate in the Hunter region returned a “yes” vote, with the Newcastle electorate recording a resounding 74.8 per cent in favour. In this regard, it returned an almost identical result to Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah, which voted 75 per cent in favour despite its MP’s high-profile efforts to swing the vote the other way.
This shows that the desire to end the discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer and intersex couples cuts through socio-economic differences.
Perhaps surprisingly, the bulk of this state’s “no” votes were not in regional Australia but in various ethnically diverse seats in Sydney’s outer suburbs, many of them held by Labor. Parkes, which takes up much of western NSW, returned a “yes” vote of 52.7 per cent, while Blaxland, taking in Auburn and Bankstown, had a “no” vote of 73.9 per cent. So where to from here?
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the result and called on parliament to respect the will of the people. He wants legislation passed by Christmas, and debate will start in the Senate on Thursday.
Mr Turnbull is right. The people have spoken, and all MPs must recognise this. If they vote in line with the public will, the law will change, and the right thing will have been done.