The Australian Parliament voted on Thursday to allow same-sex marriage across the nation, following a bitter and divisive debate settled by the government polling voters in a much-criticized ballot survey that strongly endorsed change. The public gallery of the House of Representatives erupted with applause when the bill passed to change the definition of marriage from solely between a man and a woman to "a union of two people" excluding all others. The legislation passed with a majority that wasn't challenged, although five lawmakers registered their opposition to the bill, the AP reports.
The Senate passed the same legislation last week 43 votes to 12. After royal assent and other formalities, the law will likely take effect in about a month, with the first weddings expected about a month later. The move, which makes Australia the 26th country to legalize same-sex marriage, resulted in a massive party in Parliament House, with people hugging and kissing each other and champagne flowing freely, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. "About bloody time," said Greens Sen. Janet Rice, who was previously only able to remain married to her transgender wife of 31 years, Penny Whetton, because Whetton remained listed as male on her birth certificate.