Australia legalizes same-sex marriage, 1st weddings expected in Feb

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The Australian Parliament voted on Thursday to allow same-sex marriage across the nation. It passed the historic bill with 154 votes in favour and four votes against it.

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The decision came after almost 29 hours of debate in the House of Representatives and 118 speeches.

"This is Australia: Fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect for everyone," said an effusive Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as he introduced the bill for a final vote.

"This is a great day, it belongs to every Australian," the Australian PM said.

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 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, reports AP.

Amendments meant to safeguard freedoms of speech and religion for gay-marriage opponents were all rejected, though those issues may be considered later. The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage is a reality in Australia.

OneIndia News (with agency inputs)

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