As many comparable countries such as the U.S. and Britain allowed or legislated for same-sex marriage, Australia looked increasingly out of step.
"[Australians] have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality", he said after the result was announced.
Speaking at a press conference minutes after the result he said: "We must respect the voice of the people".
"Are we really saying, in Australia today, that you can refuse to serve someone because they're gay?"
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A group of conservatives have been working on legislation that would provide strong protections for religious freedoms in the event of a yes vote. Across the voting period, there were reports of homophobic violence and widespread concerns about the integrity of the process run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an agency not normally in charge of running a vote of this size.
"At the end of the day, we are in support of getting a bill through parliament that will mean we can have marriage equality", Greens senator Janet Rice said. 6 per cent of those who participated in the postal vote wanted to see the law change. Still, passage is not guaranteed, and Turnbull will likely have to try to secure it without the unanimous support of his deeply divided coalition.
There are only two weeks of Parliament sitting dates before the Christmas break.
But, several politicians have previously said they would vote against a change in the law regardless of public opinion.
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Some conservative MPs are pushing for the the bill to include exemptions that would allow businesses opposed to same-sex marriage to refuse goods and services for weddings.
"I've never believed that allowing same-sex couples to marry needs to come at the expense of the freedoms of other Australians".
"I hope Malcolm Turnbull shows some spine on this, I really do", she said.
After the successful marriage equality referendum in Ireland in May 2015, pressure grew on the Australian government to legislate but the Coalition party room agreed on a national plebiscite instead, although there was no legal requirement to do so.
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This is a developing story and will be updated.