Gay marriage is now legal in Australia
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Gay marriage is now legal in Australia

AUSTRALIA’s parliament has voted to legalise same-sex marriage after a long campaign involving a public postal vote and hundreds of hours of parliamentary debate.

The Australian House of Representatives on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bill to change the country’s Marriage Act to allow for gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot. It becomes the 26th country worldwide to legalise gay marriage, and joins New Zealand and Taiwan in the Asia Pacific.

When the bill was passed on Thursday the parliamentary chamber in Canberra erupted in cheers and hugs. Only four MPs voted against it, reported the national broadcaster ABC News.

SEE ALSO: Asian couples expected to flock to Australia after same-sex marriage passed

“On this historic day, Australia joins over two dozen countries around the world in legislating for marriage equality,” said Australian Human Rights Commission President Professor Rosalind Croucher.

Parliament’s passing of the bill follows the result of a postal vote released last month in which 61.6 percent of Australians said they supported changing the law to allow for marriage equality.

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow said the law was a milestone for human rights in Australia, adding that “this public debate has been difficult and distressing for many Australians, especially those directly affected.”

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Liberal MP Warren Entsch lifts up Labor MP Linda Burney as they celebrate the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, on Dec 7, 2017. Source: AAP/Lukas Coch/via Reuters ‏

It will overturn an explicit ban on marriages between same-sex couples, as legislated by former Prime Minister John Howard in 2004.

As MPs debated the bill in the Australian Senate on Wednesday, Tim Wilson from the ruling, conservative Liberal Party proposed to his partner, becoming the first Australian politician to propose in parliament.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Executive Council will meet with the Governor-General on Friday in order to officially sign the bill into law.