GetUp!, an organisation promoting progressive democracy in Australia, has released the results of a poll demonstrating Australians’ widespread support for same-sex couples’ rights.

According to the Galaxy poll results, a commanding 71% of Australians agree that same-sex partners should have the same legal rights as de facto heterosexual couples, while only 23% disagreed.

“Australians have made it clear that they oppose government discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” said GetUp! Executive Director Brett Solomon. “We are far from the days when granting rights to same-sex couples was political suicide – instead, it is now electoral necessity.”

Support for equal rights for gay couples appears to be remarkably resilient across demographics, with majorities of every demographic agreeing that same-sex partners should have the same rights as heterosexual de facto couples.

Young people aged 16-24 (82% agree, 14% disagree) and women (80% agree, 15% disagree) are the most likely to support same-sex equality.

In addition, for the first time ever a majority of Australians support gay marriage – 57’% of Australians agree that same-sex couples should be able to marry. The right to marry also garners overwhelming support among younger voters, who are generally acknowledged as the key to this year’s Australian federal election: 69% of those 16-24 and 72% of those 25-34 agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, compared with only 27% of each group in disagreement.

Although comparisons over time are difficult due to differences in exact wording, public sentiment appears to have shifted significantly over the past three years.

In a 2004 Newspoll that asked, “Thinking now about gay marriages, that is same-sex marriages either between two men, or between two women. Are you personally in favour or against same-sex couples being given the same rights to marry as couples consisting of a man and a woman?” only 38% of Australians were in favour, with 44% against.

And just last year, when Newspoll asked whether respondents agreed or disagreed with the statement “The federal government should introduce a new law that formally recognises same-sex relationships,” only a slim majority of 52% agreed, with 37% disagreeing.

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