Same-sex marriage is finally set to become the law of the land in Australia, after a tortured path to reform that involved a years-long battle from advocates, more than 20 aborted parliamentary attempts, and a national survey on the issue.
A bill to legalise the change has been making its way through parliament since it was revealed on November 15 that 61.6% of voting Australians had said “yes” to legalising same-sex marriage.
About 180 politicians have spoken on the bill as it travelled through the Senate and the House of Representatives — and now, on the last scheduled sitting day of the year, it is expected to come to a final vote and pass into law.
Advocates and politicians expect the bill to pass a final vote at some stage on Thursday afternoon, following debate on various amendments.
Several amendments to the bill that would introduce wide-ranging exemptions for people who disagree with same-sex marriage have been moved by a bloc of conservative government MPs who are opposed to the reform.
However, marriage equality advocates are confident the numbers are there to defeat the amendments. BuzzFeed News understands at least 80 MPs intend to vote against each conservative amendment.
The Greens will also move amendments to the bill, which are also expected to fail.
However, if any amendments to the bill do pass, it must return to the Senate before it can be passed into law, potentially dragging the process into next week.
Advocates, including comedian Magda Szubanski and Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, gathered outside parliament house from 7am, waving signs and celebrating the anticipated victory after years of campaigning.
Szubanski told BuzzFeed News it was an extraordinary moment for older gay Australians.
“We were so ashamed,” she said. “When I was young, being gay meant a life of torment and torture and shame. The idea you would ever find happiness and love, and that that love would be celebrated by the entire nation, it was inconceivable.
“And we made the inconceivable real. With everything being against us, we had the strength to continue to be who we are. And people in various degrees of outness — everyone does it in their own way, in their own time — but we’ve all got us here to this point. And God bless bloody Australia!”
Once the bill is passed by both houses of parliament it will be given “royal assent” by governor-general Sir Peter Cosgrove.
A month’s notice of intent to marry must be given in Australia, meaning that if the bill passes, the earliest a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take place is January 2018.