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Australia House of Representatives approves same-sex marriage bill

The Australian House of Representatives has approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. (Image by Fry1989; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Australian House of Representatives on Thursday nearly unanimously approved a bill that would extend marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The vote took place less than a week after the bill passed in the Australian Senate by a 43-12 vote margin.

Lawmakers approved the bill less than a month after the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced the majority of voters who took part in a non-binding plebiscite on whether gays and lesbians should be able to legally in the country said “yes.” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged lawmakers to approve the marriage bill by Christmas.

“Thank you Australia,” wrote Alex Greenwich, a gay member of the New South Wales Parliament, after the vote. “Together, we did this. Marriage equality is finally the law of the land and it’s time to start celebrating.”

The Human Rights Campaign partnered with Australian Marriage Equality to advance the measure. HRC Global Ty Cobb in a statement said his organization welcomes “Australia into the growing family of freedom loving nations that ensure marriage equality for all couples.”

“The overwhelming support for marriage equality Down Under is a testament to the hard work of Australia’s LGBTQ advocates and allies who fought tirelessly to make today a reality. We congratulate them on this incredibly important victory,” he added.

Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove has given “royal assent” to the law — which paves the way for it to take effect. Same-sex couples can start applying to get married on Saturday.

Australian law says couples must wait 30 days to get married once they apply to do so. The first same-sex marriages in the country will take place on Jan. 9.

“The overwhelming final lower house vote … is a hugely welcome result after the weeks, months and years of campaigning, particularly after the more recent anxiety and distress for LGBTIQ people and our families,” Sally Goldner, a bisexual and transgender rights advocate in the city of Melbourne, told the Washington Blade after the vote. “Celebrations deserve to be long and loud. All the same, once the hangovers clear, it will be necessary to move forward into the future to work on equality and equity for bi, intersex, trans and gender diverse people where legal and social reform is lagging behind and well overdue.”