Australians have voted emphatically in support of same-sex marriage, paving the way for parliament to legalize homosexual unions before the end of the year. Some 61.6 percent of the more than 12 million people who took part in the government-run postal survey backed same-sex “marriage,” with 38.4 percent against, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced on Wednesday. While the voluntary survey doesn’t legally bind parliament, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the public “overwhelmingly” backed changing the law and urged lawmakers to respect the outcome.  “We must

respect the voice of the people,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. “We asked them for their opinion and they have given it to us. It is unequivocal. It is overwhelming.” Turnbull’s call is supported by business, including Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., which says homosexual “marriage” would add A$650 million ($496 million) to the economy in the first year alone. But the right-leaning coalition government remains divided on the issue, with lawmakers arguing whether to let celebrants and other service providers opt out of marrying gay couples on religious grounds. MORE