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Australia’s Senate Just Passed Same-Sex Marriage Bill in Huge Step Toward LGBTQ Equality

Just weeks after Australians voted strongly in favor of legalizing gay marriage in a postal vote, a same-sex marriage bill has passed its first major legislative hurdle.

On Wednesday, the Australian Senate voted 43-12 in favor of the bill, which will now head to the lower House of Representatives, where it’s also expected to pass, Voice of America reports.   

According to News Corp Australia, the senate chamber erupted with cheers and senators embraced in an “emotional scene” after the vote. 

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The bill notably did not include a proposed religious freedom amendment, which would have allowed so-called religious marriage celebrants to refuse to grant same-sex marriages on religious grounds. 

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In a speech before the vote, Australia’s first openly gay member of parliament, Senator Penny Wong, said Australia was nearing “a remarkable achievement,” Huffington Post reports

“It says to so many Australians, this parliament, this country, accept you for who you are. Your love is not lesser, and nor are you. It says you’re one of us,” she said. 

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who had previously given an impassioned speech on same-sex marriage before the vote, arrived at the senate chamber in a rainbow dress. Senator Derryn Hinch wore a rainbow scarf to the vote, which sparked a 40-minute dress code debate

Read More: These Were the Best Reactions to Australia’s Same Sex Marriage Vote

Wednesday’s vote was the culmination of a decades-long fight to extend marriage equality to Australians. The Guardian reports that more than 20 previous attempts to pass a gay marriage bill had failed. 

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“Today is a huge victory for love, for equality and fairness, for the yes campaign and indeed all Australians who voted yes in support of [LGBTI] Australians, our equality and our dignity,” Anna Brown, co-chair of the Equality Campaign, said after the vote. 

The bill will now move to the House of Representatives, and a vote is scheduled for Monday. Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the bill will pass by Christmas.