Australia has said yes to same-sex marriage.
Years of divisive public and political debate came to a head on Wednesday when the results of the Malcolm Turnbull government's postal survey were announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
More than 12 million Australians voted in the survey with 61.6 per cent in favour of marriage equality. In total, 7,817,247 people voted 'yes' and 4,873,987 people voted 'no'.
The result paves the way for lawmakers across the ditch to join New Zealand and 23 other nations in legalising same-sex marriage. NZ made the change in 2013.
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Turnbull said he wanted federal parliament to approve same-sex marriage laws before Christmas given that Australians had delivered their "unequivocal" approval.
"It is our job now to get on with it, and get this done," the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
"I say to all Australians, whatever your views on this issue may be, we must respect the voice of the people."
"We asked them for their opinion and they have given it to us. It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming."
While opinion polls have long shown the majority of Australians support marriage equality, previous efforts to change the law have been stymied by conservatives in parliament.
The issue has been a fault line running through Turnbull's coalition and he's shied away from legislating during his two years in office even though he supports same-sex unions.
With companies such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Qantas Airways campaigning for the nation to catch up with New Zealand, the US and Britain, the postal vote was Turnbull's bid to break the deadlock.
The postal vote had a response rate of 79.5 per cent or more than 12.7 million people.
More than 70 per cent of each age group voted.
Of Australia's 150 federal electorates, 133 returned 'yes' votes.
NSW returned the lowest 'yes' vote - 57.7 per cent - while the ACT returned the highest 'yes' vote - 74 per cent.
64.9 per cent of Victorians voted 'yes' and 60.7 per cent fo Queenslanders voted 'yes'.
The vote was characterised by tension and argument.
Neo-Nazi groups distributed homophobic posters in Melbourne. Prominent conservative lawmakers urged people to vote against "political correctness," and argued that marriage equality could undermine family values and see radical sexuality and gender programmes rolled out in schools.
On the flip side, "yes" campaigners were accused of intolerance for not respecting the right of people to vote "no".
Thousands of same-sex marriage supporters erupted in cheers and applause at mass gatherings around the nation at the overwhelming 'yes' result.
Rainbow flags were waved, fists thrust into the air and plenty of hugs were shared in the crowds gathered in capital city parks.
Opponent of same-sex marriage Lyle Shelton described the vote as disappointing, but said his group, the Coalition for Marriage, would respect the decision.
The Equality Campaign described the result as resounding and historic.
"This happened because millions of Australians reached out to our own families, neighbourhoods, organisations - to stand up for equality, stand by our loved ones and share why YES was so important," spokesman Alex Greenwich said in a statement.
In Melbourne there were tears, cheers, ear-to-ear grins, kisses, hugs and thousands of arms in the air.
With champagne spraying and rainbow dust shooting into the sky, thousands danced to Kylie Minogue's "Celebration" outside the State Library of Victoria after the 'yes' result blasted live from Canberra through massive speakers.
"This is the happiest day of my life. I've never felt this happy," James Mead, 35, said with tears streaming down his face.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the crowd they should be able to get married in December.
"Yes, yes, yes", Shorten screamed to the Melbourne crowd.
"It may have been 61 per cent who voted yes in the survey, but I want to say to all LGBTIQ Australians you are 100 per cent loved, 100 per cent valued, and after the next two weeks of parliament, 100 per cent able to marry the person that you love.
"Today we celebrate, tomorrow we legislate."
- Sydney Morning Herald, Stuff
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