Australia’s Parliament legalized same-sex marriage Dec. 7, following a court ruling doing the same in Austria two days earlier, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Churches and religious organizations in Australia are allowed under the new law to boycott gay weddings without violating existing anti-discrimination mandates, the AP said. The Australian Parliament overwhelmingly approved gay marriage following a nationwide postal ballot that drew approval from 62 percent of voters Oct. 27.
The countries join at least 25 other nations where the practice was legalized as early as 2000, according to Pew Research tallied through August.
Austria’s Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest jurisdiction, reversed Dec. 5 a law that limited same-sex couples to legal partnerships, CNN reported. Austria’s law takes effect in January, 2019; but Australia will allow gay marriages immediately following legal formalities, AP said, beginning in perhaps a month.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., in the Dec. 7 “The Briefing” podcast, said the Austrian law redefines marriage by extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples in the name of equality.
“It means that the civil partnerships which were invented as a form of something like marriage for same-sex couples” are now available to heterosexual couples, Mohler said. “Heterosexual couples themselves are now demanding access to what we might call ‘marriage light.’”
Earlier in 2017, Germany and Malta legalized gay marriage. The U.S. was the 22nd nation to do so, according to Pew, with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, 2015.
The Netherlands led the way in legalizing gay marriage in 2000. In addition to countries already referenced above, Belgium legalized gay marriage in 2003, followed by Canada and Spain (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2008), Sweden (2009), Argentina, Iceland and Portugal (2010), Denmark (2012), Brazil, England/Wales, France, New Zealand and Uruguay (2013), Luxembourg and Scotland (2014), Finland, Greenland and Ireland (2015) and Columbia (2016).
Countries considering gay marriage include Chile, where lawmakers Nov. 27 began debating a bill to do just that, the National LGBT Media Association reported Nov. 28.
Gay marriage has been legal in some jurisdictions of Mexico since 2009, but not countrywide, Pew said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)