Australians have emphatically voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, saying “yes” to the historic social change by a substantial margin of 61.6 per cent to 38.4 per cent – but the majority of Fairfield residents voted “no” in the voluntary postal survey.
In the Fowler electorate – which covers the suburbs of Abbotsbury, Bonnyrigg, Bossley Park, Cabramatta, Cabramatta West, Canley Heights, Canley Vale, Carramar, Edensor Park , Fairfield East, Greenfield Park, Lansvale, Mount Pritchard and Prairiewood – 48,782 people or 63.7 per cent voted ‘no’.
The ‘yes’ voted received 27,847 votes or 36.3 per cent.
It was a similar story for the McMahon electorate which takes in the suburbs of Canley Vale, Fairfield, Fairfield West, Kemps Creek, Old Guildford, Smithfield, Wetherill Park, Woodpark and Yennora.
The ‘no’ vote received 53,967 votes (64.9 per cent) and there were 29,146 (35.1 per cent) ‘yes’ votes.
Neighboring electorate Blaxland – which takes in parts of Villawood – had the highest percentage of ‘no’ votes in NSW with 73.9 per cent.
The Fowler electorate had the highest percentage (27.9) of non-responding votes in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. McMahon had 22.2 per cent of people not respond.
Demographic factors help explain the sharp differences in response to the marriage survey across the city.
Census data shows that electorates with a strong majority of no voters also have a large population share with a religious affiliation.
In the electorate of Blaxland, for example, just 14 per cent of the population opted for "no religion" in last year's census. There was a similar low "no religion" share in the seats of Werriwa, McMahon, Fowler and Watson which all returned a strong no vote.
The census showed 29 per cent of the population of Blaxland electorate identified with Islam and another 36 per cent identified with Christianity.
Most of the Sydney electorates that voted no had a relatively high proportion of people born overseas.
In August, Fowler MP Chris Hayes wrote a piece for the Champion saying he voted in accordance with what he believes – “that marriage is a union between a man and woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
He also said: “While my personal views remain constant, I will not disregard the results of the ABS survey. In other words, should it be a “yes” result, I will not act to frustrate or delay the passage of legislation to give effect to the community’s decision.”
The voluntary postal survey - always a plan B to the compulsory plebiscite - is not a binding mechanism with the effect of altering the Marriage Act.
Having deferred the substantive decision to the Australian public, politicians will now need to act on that verdict by facilitating, amending and passing a bill - and that could prove messy.
The Turnbull government is determined to push it through before Christmas, if only finally to divest itself of a "barnacle" that has beleaguered the Coalition for years now.
Just two parliamentary sitting weeks remain for the year, from Monday November 27 to Thursday December 7. In that time, MPs will have to agree on how to legalise same-sex marriage.
It means Australia is poised to join 25 other countries that have granted marriage equality to gay couples, including the US, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
At street parties across the country, gay and lesbian Australians cheered, danced and embraced as the results were announced by the chief statistician on Wednesday.