Saturday will be the first day homosexual couples may lodge a notice of intended marriage, but they must wait until early January until they can make it official. The legislation will automatically recognize civil marriages of same-sex couples from other countries.
According to the New York Times, a handful of conservative lawmakers pushed to include amendments that would protect religious freedom, but their efforts failed during the final debate, which lasted four days.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, said the bill did not force marriage celebrants to perform homosexual weddings, nor did it threaten the legal status of religious groups who hold that marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Opponents of the bill, however, have voiced concerns about religious freedom in recent months, pointing to examples in other countries of Christian vendors who have been heavily fined for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Following the conclusion of the mail-in poll on marriage, Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, issued a statement urging that religious freedom be prioritized as the new legislation was drafted.
"Parliamentarians must recognize and respect the concerns of the more than 4.8 million Australians who opposed a change to the definition of marriage by putting in place strong conscience and religious freedom protections," he said Nov. 15.