Australia’s upper house has approved legislation to legalise same-sex marriage, meaning it could be signed into law as early as next week.
Politicians rejected efforts from conservative politicians to allow religious objectors to refuse services to same-sex couples.
The bill to legalise same-sex marriage has passed the Senate, but with a sitting week cancelled in the House of Representatives, MPs will not continue debate until next week.
The bill passed without amendment, with 43 senators voting yes and 12 no.
The bill will now be debated by the Lower House when MPs return to Canberra next week, paving the way for same-sex marriage to be legalised by Christmas.
Liberal senator Dean Smith, who authored the bill, told his Senate colleagues before the vote that while it had been a difficult journey to get to this point, the debate over the bill had been “good for the soul” of all Australians.
“We should not fear conscience. The more the debate was resisted, the more the strength was found to fight for it,” he said.
“At some later point, we should reflect on how we can avoid that tortured process from ever having to happen again.
“This debate has been good for the soul of the country.
“It has been good for the soul of this chamber and it will be good for the souls of LGBTI children throughout our great country.”
Penny Wong, Labor’s leader in the Senate, said it was a historic day for all Australians.
“Today we stand on the cusp of a remarkable achievement and a historic event, and we pause briefly to reflect, just for a moment, on what we are a part of,” she said.
Those who voted against the bill were Eric Abetz, Fraser Anning, Cory Bernardi, Slade Brockman, Brian Burston, Matt Canavan, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Lucy Gichuhi, Chris Ketter, Barry O’Sullivan, Helen Polley, and John Williams.
Senators Bridget McKenzie, James McGrath and Pauline Hanson were in the chamber but did not cast a vote.
Same-sex marriage supporters including Senator Smith and crossbencher Derryn Hinch reminded their colleagues to be respectful of all views, including those who voted No in the Senate and in the postal vote.
“I will say one thing to gay Australians: be charitable to the people who opposed it, the No voters,” Senator Hinch said.
“Because when it comes to Christmas and you are sitting at the Christmas table and you find out to your shock that your mum or dad voted against it, they came from a generation that had a different view. Just be a little bit tolerant.”
None of the suggested amendments were adopted
The Senate spent five sitting days debating the bill.
Several senators raised concerns about some sections, particularly those relating to religious protections, and some called for amendments to the bill.
Some conservative senators wanted to create two definitions of marriage, rather than change the existing one too: the union of two people to the exclusion of all others.
Others wanted the religious protections in Senator Smith’s bill that would allow ministers to refuse to marry a same-sex couple if it went against their beliefs to be extended to civil celebrants as well.
Attorney-General George Brandis introduced amendments so people could speak freely about their traditional view of marriage without fear of legal action.
When the change was mooted, he said he did not think it was necessary but did so in good faith for those concerned about religious protection.
The bill was passed without amendments, but MPs in the House of Representatives could reignite the debate on any of those suggestions.
If an amended version of the bill was passed by the House of Representatives, it would have to return to the Senate to consider again, but this is unlikely.
The majority of MPs in the Lower House are expected to support the bill.