Australians overwhelmingly voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, with more than 61 percent of respondents voting ‘yes’.
Uniting Network national secretary Warren Talbot welcomed the results of the survey and urged Parliament to amend the Marriage Act before Christmas.
“Although unnecessary, the postal survey confirmed that a significant majority of Australians support marriage equality for LGBTIQ Australians,” Uniting Network national secretary Warren Talbot said.
“Marriage is about love and commitment, not the sex or gender identity of the two people involved.”
Mr Talbot said it is now time for the Uniting Church to amend its policy to allow same-sex marriage.
“It is a plain denial of the Gospel that all LGBTIQ people are systematically denied access to one of the church’s major rituals, namely marriage,” Mr Talbot said.
“This policy sends a message of exclusion and rejection to LGBTIQ communities and others.
“Our Uniting Church already accepts openly LGBTIQ clergy, including those in committed same-sex relationships.
“There is an opportunity, at the Assembly meeting in 2018, to change the church’s policy and give substance to our stated aim of being truly inclusive.”
In Victoria, 64.9 percent voted in favour of marriage equality while 63.6 percent of Tasmanian respondents voted yes.
Thousands gathered at the State Library of Victoria at 10am for the official announcement.
The result was greeted with scenes of jubilation from the ‘yes’ crowd with many hugging their partners, family and friends.
Meredith Butler and Mel Carron attended the State Library along with their dog, Scout. The couple have been together for more than 30 years.
Ms Butler grew up in a Christian household with missionaries and preachers on both sides of the family for three generations.
“I’ve watched many members of my family change in relation to our relationship,” she said.
“It’s been quite a personal issue and it’s been great to see Christians come out and say at the no campaign that Lyle Shelton doesn’t speak for all Christians. That is very powerful to us.
“We’re also very angry at how the debate has become about things other than marriage – like Safe Schools, transgender children and families – so we’re here to support them too.”
Ms Butler said she wants Christians to continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTIQ people.
“I think many Christians have said (marriage equality) is not an issue and that they have accepted many LGBTIQ people in their congregations,” she said.
“They can continue to be allies, as many churches and Christians have been.”
Ms Carron hopes the ‘yes’ vote will inspire Christians to fully accept and embrace LGBTIQ members.
“I feel what comes up with some members of the family is that it’s ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, which is very patronising,” she said.
“It’s about accepting people as they are unequivocally.”
Ms Carron said the landmark survey was significant for the rights of LGBTIQ people in Australia but warned the fight for equality has just begun.
“It’s great to celebrate today and now we need to gather our resources and be alert to the fact that discrimination can still happen,” she said.
“We may not choose to get married but what’s important is that it’s now our choice. It’s not other Australians, the government or far-right Christians – it’s simply our choice.”
Those in the ‘no’ camp have vowed to continue fighting for freedom of speech and religion.
FamilyVoice Australia said any same-sex marriage law that passes through parliament must have protections for freedom of conscience and religion.
“The Yes campaign has repeatedly promised that legalising same-sex marriage will not compromise freedom of conscience and religion. They must now deliver on this promise,” FamilyVoice Australia national director Ashley Saunders said.
Mr Saunders said protections should not be limited to religious marriage ceremonies but extended to “encompass every Australian in any walk of life who cannot, in good conscience, support same-sex marriage”.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the result was an “overwhelming participation rate and an overwhelming yes vote.” More than 12.7 million people – 79.5 percent of eligible voters – participated in the voluntary survey.
He said it is now the federal parliament’s job to legalise same-sex marriage before Christmas.
Celebrations in Melbourne are expected to continue well into the night, with many buildings flying rainbow flags and the sound of The Village People echoing through the streets.
“I never thought the song ‘YMCA’ would make me feel emotional,” said one lunchtime office worker, “but it’s been that sort of a day.”