Australia edges closer to same-sex marriage vote

Australia could have same-sex marriage before the end of the day

Same-sex marriage will be legal in Australia, with Parliament agreeing to change the Marriage Act and end the ban on gay and lesbian couples marrying.

Liberal senator Dean Smith's bill will now become law after a day of cheers, tears and applause in the Lower House.

Supporters of marriage equality gathered on the lawns outside Parliament house from early this morning to witness the vote, waving placards and rainbow flags, dancing and playing music in celebration.

The bill has cleared both houses after passing the Senate last week and now only requires approval from the Governor General, a formality that will likely happen on Friday.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the new law spoke for a modern Australia, "inclusive and fair".

The former cabinet minister told parliament marriage was a "natural arrangement" between a man and a woman and pre-dated politics. Though the bill was expected to pass into law without significant opposition, the lengthy legislative process was excruciatingly slow for the hundreds of advocates watching from the public gallery.

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The overwhelming majority of MPs voted in favour of the bill, with only four MPs voting no.

The government has appointed a panel to examine how to safeguard religious freedoms once gay marriage was a reality in Australia.

"What a day! What a day for love, for equality, for respect".

Gay marriage was endorsed by 62 percent of Australian voters who responded to a government-commissioned postal ballot last month.

Marriage equality campaigners have fought for years for Thursday's vote.

Tony Abbott, left, during Thursday's same-sex marriage debate in the Upper House. On Thursday night, Queensland MP Bob Katter, who went viral for his dismissal of gay marriage in light of fatal crocodile attacks, delivered a 15-minute speech declaring that same-sex marriage was not of interest of gay couples because heterosexual couples weren't getting married either.

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