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After years of campaigning, a multi-million dollar national referendum and weeks of suspense, Australia’s parliament has legislated for marriage equality, passing a bill almost unanimously.

On Thursday the House of Representatives passed a cross-party bill after an unprecedented national postal survey gave unstoppable momentum to legislate the historic social reform.

It marks a huge turnaround for the country which changed the law in 2004 to say that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

It is now the 25th country in the world to recognise same-sex marriage by law.

Earlier this week Tim Wilson became the first gay person to propose to their same sex partner in the parliament chambers, leading to a viral video watched by millions worldwide.

Almost all members of the lower house passed the bill which cleared the Senate last week without amendment.

Only four MPs voted ‘no’. They were Coalition MPs Russell Broadbent, Keith Pitt, David Littleproud and independent MP Bob Katter.

The prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told the house that “Australia has done it – every Australian had their say, and they said ‘it’s fair, get on with it’.”

“We’ve voted today for equality, for love, it’s time for more marriages, more commitment, more love, more respect,” he said. “This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect.”

Weddings will able to start from 6 January next year after the attorney general, George Brandis, announced that on 9 December same-sex couples will be able “to lodge a notice of intended marriage”.

At a press conference after the vote, the Equality Campaign co-chair, Alex Greenwich, said: “We came, we saw and love finally conquered. Marriage equalityis finally the law of the land.”

In a bruising three-month campaign leading up to the referendum, opponents of marriage equality claimed same-sex marriage would have far-reaching negative consequences for gender education and claimed it would harm religious freedom and freedom of speech.

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