The result, announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, will lead to consideration of a same-sex marriage bill in parliament with the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, promising marriage equality should be law by Christmas.
With a turnout of 79.5% the result in the voluntary survey is considered a highly credible reflection of Australian opinion and gives marriage equality advocates enormous momentum to achieve the historic social reform. Australia’s chief statistician, David Kalisch, announced the results at a press conference in Canberra at 10am on Wednesday, revealing 7,817,247 people voted in favour and 4,873,987 voted against.
At a press conference in Canberra, Turnbull said that Australians had “spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality”.
Turnbull said the result was “unequivocal and overwhelming”, implicitly warning conservatives including in his own government that the public are “our masters” and the parliament must now deliver on the result.
“They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love. And now it is up to us here in the parliament of Australia to get on with it, to get on with the job the Australian people asked us to do and get this done,” he said, stressing the law should change before Christmas.
At a rally in Melbourne, the Labor leader, Bill Shorten, said: “What a fabulous day to be an Australian – because in this survey the Australian people have declared overwhelmingly Australia is ready for marriage equality.
“And I just want to make one promise: today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate,” he said.
Turnbull, same-sex marriage supporters in Australia’s ruling Liberal-National party Coalition, the Labor opposition, Greens and other cross-bench parties have reached a consensus around a cross-party bill that makes minimalist changes to protect religious freedom without legalising discrimination by commercial service providers, such as cake makers, as some conservatives in the Coalition government have demanded.
Appearing alongside Turnbull, the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, said the cross-party bill was a “good starting point” but he believed “there is a need for some additional religious protections”, signalling amendments could still be contentious within the government.
The bill will be introduced in to the Senate on Wednesday for debate on Thursday and Shorten has offered the opposition’s support to help “stare down the conservatives seeking to delay marriage equality”.
A bill is expected to pass, with many opponents of marriage equality in parliament promising to respect the result, although parliament may consider amendments. Coalition parliamentarians, who were previously required to vote against marriage equality will now be given a free vote, Labor MPs are almost universally in favour and a majority of crossbenchers will also support the bill.
On Tuesday Turnbull said the government “would not countenance” legalising discrimination against same-sex weddings by commercial service providers and warned a rival conservative bill to do so would have “virtually no prospect” of passing parliament.
In a speech after the result Equality Campaign spokesman, Alex Greenwich, said: “Today love has had a landslide victory.”
“Together we have achieved something truly remarkable, a win for fairness and equality, not only for the LGBTI community and our families, but for all Australians,” he said.
Greenwich said the campaign had made more than 1m phone calls and knocked 100,000 doors, an “unprecedented” level of support that had exceeded “any campaign in our history”.