Yes vote wins - so what happens next?

Sam Hussey

The government asked the question and Australians have answered YES – same-sex couples should be allowed to marry under Australian law … so what happens next?

Head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, David Kalisch, revealed that 61.6 per cent of the 12.3 million responses want to see same-sex marriage legalised in Australia.

While both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have vowed to back the voice of the Australian people, as of today same-sex marriage is still illegal in Australia.

Australians have answered YES – same-sex couples should be allowed to marry under Australian law. Source: AAP
The party has started for 'yes' voters in Melbourne. Source: AAP

What still needs to be done to legalise same-sex marriage

If it does pass through the Senate, Mr Turnbull said a bill to legalise same sex marriage will go to the House of Representatives before Christmas.

"The Australian people have spoken in their millions," Mr Turnbull said after the ABS announced the Yes vote.

"They have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality. They voted yes for fairness. They voted yes for commitment. They voted yes for the love."

  • Around 3.30pm (AEDT) Wednesday, the Senate will be asked to allow draft laws - which have cross-party support - to be introduced on Thursday.
  • If supported, Thursday's Senate program will effectively be cleared to prioritise debate on the same-sex marriage bill, which will be the subject of a free vote not bound by party positions.
  • When the Senate resumes on November 27 debate on the bill will continue as a priority over all government and general business.
  • If passed by the Senate, the bill would then go to the House of Representatives for debate and a vote.
  • A majority of Members of Parliament would need to vote yes for the law to change.
  • Both houses are scheduled to wrap up for the year on December 7, but time could be extended if necessary.

The proposed bill to make it law

Western Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith has delivered on his promise to fast-track same-sex marriage laws, asking federal parliament to start debate on Thursday.

The draft laws proposed by Senator Smith have strong support as a "starting point" from many of his Liberal colleagues, as well as Labor, the Greens, independent Derryn Hinch and the Nick Xenophon Team.

A second bill proposed by conservative Liberal senator James Paterson has been promptly shut down by Prime Minister Turnbull who said religious protections that discriminate against gay couples have no chance of passing parliament.

The Paterson bill promises exemptions for ministers of religion and celebrants with genuine belief and allows a limited form of conscientious objection.

Both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Labor leader Bill Shorten have vowed to back the vote of the Australian people. Photo: AAP
Mr Turnbull said a bill to legalise same sex marriage will go to the Houe of Representatives before Christmas. Photo AAP

This would mean bakers, caterers, jewellers, printers, dress-makers and tailors would all be allowed to refuse their services and goods to same-sex couples planning weddings, on the grounds of religious or “conscientious” beliefs.

However, Senator Smith's bill also includes exemptions so religious organisations can refuse to conduct same-sex marriages.

It also seeks to protect freedom of speech and guarantee the right of parents to take their children out of school classes that conflicted with their values.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull threw his support behind Senator Smith's bill but said he expects it will still be highly debated.

When can same-sex couples get married?

Two men dresses as brides are seen as people begin to gather in front of the State library of Victoria for the outcome of the Same Sex Marriage postal survey. Source: AAP

Australia's lingering citizenship scandal may have an impact on the result, and delay the bill from passing through the House of Representatives.

If the bill does pass, same-sex couples could potentially be married after 30 days.

Under Australian law a completed Notice of Intended Marriage form must be provided to a celebrant at least one month before the wedding.

Executive Director of the Yes Campaign, Tiernan Brady, told Yahoo7 News he hopes the momentum from Wednsday's announcement will carry through to parliament and ultimately see same-sex marriages "happening by Australia Day".

"A yes vote creates an irresistible force and I think it will sweep all before it," Mr Brady said.

“There’s no reason in the world, this (bill) can’t be passed before Christmas.

“After spending $150 million, it would be a very foolish politician that would be so disrespectful of the Australian people to play games.

“Do your job and do it now."

For those who travelled overseas to tie the knot, the wait may be even shorter.

"The minute the bill that passes there will be thousands of couples that will be legally married, because they got married abroad and now their marriage will be recognized in Australia," Mr Brady added.

Those in Adelaide braved the weather for the announcement. Source: AAP

What happens if the bill doesn’t get passed?

Should any proposed draft bill, including subsequent amendments, fail to pass through either house same sex marriage would still be illegal in Australia.

University of Sydney Professor Anne Twomey told Yahoo7 News she didn’t think that a small winning margin would help reverse the result, despite earlier suggestions it may.

“If you look at Brexit, that passed with 51 per cent, they (the government) implemented it because it was the will of the people,” Ms Twomey said.

Supporters of the Yes vote had been rallying for months. Source: Getty

From the Coalition's perspective, a failed bill could see same-sex marriage taken off the table for the forseeable future.

However given Bill Shorten has pledged to introduce a bill to legislate same-sex marriage if Labor wins the next federal election – the topic could emerge as a clear party-political contrast and dictate the result of the next election.