Thousands of people celebrated the results at rallies across the country, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that the turnout for the voluntary ballot was 79.5 per cent – one of the highest participation rates for any such referendum held around the world.
Australia has voted to endorse same sex marriage by a strong margin of 62 per cent to 38 per cent in an historic plebiscite that was welcomed by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who declared: “They voted for love”.
Mr Turnbull said the “overwhelming” victory of the “yes” vote – which was non-binding – would be followed by a free vote of MPs to change the law.
“They voted yes for fairness, they voted yes for commitment, they voted yes for love,” he said.
“I say to all Australians, whatever your views on this issue may be, we must respect the voice of the people. We asked them for their opinion and they have given it to us.
“It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming…. The people have voted yes for marriage equality. Now it is our job to deliver it.”
Mr Turnbull, who personally supports same sex marriage, said he hoped to hold a free, or conscience, vote in parliament before Christmas.
“I know many people – a minority obviously – voted no,” he said. “But we are a fair nation. There is nothing more Australian than a fair go.”
The vote was conducted by post and was non-binding.
The results showed that a majority of people in all states and territories voted “yes” and only 17 of 150 electorates voted “no”. The cities of Sydney and Melbourne had the highest “yes” results – about 84 per cent.
“What is clear … is the clarity of the result,” said David Kalisch, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Bill Shorten, the Opposition Labor party leader, said the plebiscite was divisive and should not have been held. But he said the strong endorsement for same sex marriage showed that “unconditional love always has the last word”.
“What a fabulous day to be an Australian,” he said.