Australian children will soon be allowed to marry their straight friends, ending a decade-long ban on same-sex unions.
The move is a significant victory for gay rights campaigners, who have been fighting for the change for more than a decade.
But the Australian government has faced intense criticism from gay rights advocates who say it will pave the way for the legalisation of polygamy, which they say amounts to child abuse.
Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government would review the ban when it was re-instated next year.
“It’s about time,” he said on ABC radio.
“It’s a step in the right direction.”
But opponents said the change would be a backward step, as it could lead to polygamy.
The Australian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians have both called for a royal commission into the practice of polygamy in Australia.
A spokesperson for the Australian Human Rights Commission said the ban had already been rescinded by the Supreme Court in 2011 and was a legal issue for the states.
However, he said it was “difficult” to predict the impact of a change to the Marriage Act on the law, as the issue was being debated by the Federal Government.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was disappointed to see the ban on polygamy overturned, saying it would not lead to a “greater level of equality” for all Australians.
“[It] will not lead us to a more equal society,” she said.
Palaszewski, who is also a Queensland Catholic, said she had already spoken to gay marriage advocates and had not heard any arguments for the law being reinstated.
She said the “long overdue” ban on gay marriage was “time-honoured”, and urged voters to reject the Federal Coalition’s plan to allow same-gender couples to wed.
Gay rights campaigners said they were disappointed the change could be reversed and said they wanted the laws changed.
Former minister of state for equality and human rights Peter Dutton said the issue of same-Sex Marriage was not a “matter for debate”.
“That’s not the point of the matter.
The point of this discussion is the question of the right to marry, and I would say this has to be the first time the Australian people have spoken on this issue,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
Cameron Houlihan from the Human Rights Law Centre said the move was a step forward but there was a “long way to go”.
Houlihant said the Government was not doing enough to ensure equal marriage rights for same- sex couples and said he was concerned about the potential impact on young people.
He said the repeal of the ban was a positive step and it was important that there was “nothing more that’s left to be done” to ensure children were given the same opportunities and rights as parents.
‘We’ve got to get back to normal’The Marriage Act, introduced in 2012, is expected to be reinstated next year after the Coalition re-elected to office.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said he would continue to support the bill and said there was no place for discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation.
Mr Shorten also defended the state’s “safe harbour” arrangements, which allowed foreign workers to stay in Australia and work without fear of discrimination.
Opposition leader Bill Heffernan said the Australian Government was “talking a good game” about ending the ban, but it had done nothing to help Australians who were struggling with prejudice.
“There are thousands of people who are gay who are now coming to this country, and many of them are very worried about their jobs, their wages, the security of their homes, they’ve had to deal with some very, very difficult experiences,” he added.