AUSTRALIANS have voted an overwhelming YES to marriage equality, with 61.6 per cent of more than 12 million voters supporting changes to the marriage laws.
The final count was 7.8 million responses in support of same-sex marriage, and 4.9 million against.
Australian statistician David Kalisch said the final number of responses was 12,727,920 people, representing 79 per cent of eligible Australians.
“This is outstanding for a voluntary survey and well above other voluntary surveys conducted around the world,” he said.
“It shows how important this issue is to many Australians.”
Mr Kalisch noted participation was strong across every state and territory except in the Northern Territory, where only 58.4 per cent of eligible people responded.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics have confirmed, in an announcement that gripped the nation, that the majority of Australians support changes to the Marriage Act under the Constitution to allow for same-sex couples to wed.
After today’s vote, gay marriage is set to be legislated by the end of this year.
The introduction of same-sex marriage will be a major legacy of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has supported gay marriage for a long time.
“My views are very, very well-known and have been for a long time,” he said.
“Now, it’s under my prime-ministership that all Australians have been given a say on this issue.
“We have had an 80 per cent turnout. Amazing. Extraordinary. Vastly beyond everyone’s expectations.”
The announcement prompted emotional scenes at Sydney’s yes camp with high profile campaigners Ian Thorpe, Magda Szubanski, Kerry Phelps and Christine Forster celebrating the emphatic victory.
When will the first same-sex marriages take place?
Same-sex marriage should become legal now the public vote has endorsed the move.
The vote will be followed by legislation, though there could be a bit of a wait for those who wish to marry.
When the Senate returns on November 27, it will go through a formal Senate Committee process for a week, leaving it room to be introduced into the lower house in the first week of December.
Attorney-General George Brandis has indicated he may need to extend Parliament for an extra week in the lead up to Christmas if necessary.
“The Private Members Bill will be debated and people will be free to move whatever amendments they want and they’ll be debated and voted on and determined,” Mr Turnbull said.
“And every member of Parliament will have their say on those amendments and they won’t be, from our side at any rate, constrained by any party policy.”
The Turnbull Government’s strong desire is to have the legislation introduced before the year’s end.
The standard waiting time for legislation to take effect is 30 days.
However, this could be longer if the Government decides that celebrants and other officials need more time to get acquainted with the new law.