Gay and marriage rights in Australia: A timeline

Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the two-month postal survey, with 62 percent of respondents saying "yes" to gay unions

Australians have voted overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage, in a historic nationwide survey that will now go to parliament to give it the force of law.

Nearly 80 percent of eligible voters took part in the two-month postal survey, with 61.6 percent of respondents saying "yes" to gay unions, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday.

Here is a timeline of key moments in marriage rights in Australia.

1961: Australia introduces its first Marriage Act, but it does not include a formal definition of marriage

1975: South Australia becomes the first state to decriminalise male homosexuality

1976-1997: Other states and territories decriminalise male homosexuality

2004: The Marriage Act is amended to add the definition that "marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others"

2009: De facto couples are given similar rights to those who are married

2013: Federal Labor government makes it unlawful to discriminate against LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex, queer) people

2015: Conservative coalition government commits to a national plebiscite proposal on same-sex marriage

November, 2016: Upper house Senate rebuffs the government's plans for a national plebiscite on gay unions

August, 2017: Senate knocks backs national plebiscite proposal again, government pushes ahead with a national voluntary postal vote

September, 2017: Ballot papers for the postal vote are sent out

November 15, 2017: Some 61.6 percent of eligible Australians vote in favour of changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry