Australia Marks 5th Anniversary of Gay Marriage Legislation

SYDNEY — It has been five years since Australia legalized same-sex marriage after the results of a postal survey. On Dec 9, 2017, the Marriage Act was updated to allow for marriage equality.

For thousands of couples, the reform has been life-changing, and brought to an end years of campaigning and discrimination.

Australian law defines marriage as “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

Karen Pack married her partner, Bronte, in Sydney last year in front of friends and relatives.

She told local media Thursday that the vote to legalize same-sex marriage has lifted a burden on younger people.

“We have had other young queer people say to us, you now, thank you for telling your story, thank you for having the courage to do what you have done because what you have gone through, I do not have to spend the next 20 years dealing with some of the stuff that you have dealt with and going through some of the trauma that we went through, right,” she said. “It’s a lot of joy for us.”

Australia has not always been so tolerant toward LGBTQ communities.

A special commission in the state of New South Wales is investigating suspected and unsolved gay hate crimes committed between 1970 and 2010.

Gay rights campaigners say that in the 1980s violence toward LGBTQ people was “almost seen as a sport.” Homophobia was rife in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The inquiry is said to be the first of its kind in the world and was set up in April following recommendations by a parliamentary committee. The commission is due to finish its report by next June.

Only about 60% of Australians voted in favor of marriage reform, while 38.4% of respondents to the 2017 postal survey opposed any change to the law. Almost 80% of eligible voters in Australia took part in the ballot.

There remains opposition to gay marriage from some church leaders and others, but the anniversary of the 2017 vote is being celebrated as a moment in history.

Campaigners have said that Australia still has work to do around religious discrimination and transgender rights.

More than 30 countries have legalized same-sex marriage, including Argentina, Finland, Slovenia, South Africa and the United States.

In Australia, official figures have shown that there have been nearly 18,000 same-sex marriages since the law was amended.

Source: Voice of America