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Same-sex marriage becomes legal, first weddings in January

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Same-sex couples will be able to marry from early January after the Governor-General signed-off new marriage equality laws.

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Sir Peter Cosgrove gave the laws royal assent this morning when he was visited by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis in Canberra.

“It is now part of Australian law,” an elated Turnbull said.

Earlier the prime minister did the rounds of morning television encouraging his fellow Australians to start making wedding preparations.

“It is a big Australian hug for all same-sex couples, saying we love and respect you, now go out there and get married,” he told the Seven Network.

Turnbull described the postal survey as a game-changer for the issue, now resolved after years of debate.

He criticised Labor for not progressing the matter when in office but said the victory now belongs to the whole parliament.

The passage of the laws would not put religious freedoms at risk or traditional marriage, he insisted.

“People that think gay people making a commitment is is a threat to her marriage fails to realise that the real threat is lack of commitment,” Turnbull said.

A clearly emotional Attorney-General shared a drink with Labor senator Penny Wong after the vote to celebrate.

“To see the galleries of the House of Representatives just explode spontaneously was something that was unforgettable,” Senator Brandis told ABC radio.

“Of all the things I’ve done since I’ve been in parliament I think this is the one that will be most consequential.”

The new laws cleared parliament unchanged on Thursday evening after a marathon debate lasting 56 hours and despite a push from conservative MPs for additional religious protections.

Only four MPs in the House of Representatives voted against the private bill, a week after the legislation was agreed to by the Senate.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said many Australians found the survey experience pretty tough and now is a time for healing.

“I think we got to marriage equality in spite of Malcolm Turnbull, not because of him,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Same-sex couples will be able to lodge formal intentions to wed from Saturday allowing them to marry from January 9.

Gay couples who tied the knot overseas will have their unions officially recognised from midnight tonight when the Act comes into force.

– AAP

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