While Australian MPs are still debating whether to recognize same-sex unions in the country, the Australian Bureau of Statistics have given gay couples de facto recognition by including same-sex couples in results of the 2011 census which it will release Friday morning.
Andrew Henderson, executive director of the 2011 census, said gay marriage figures were included in data tabulation this year due to a high level of interest. He said that same-sex couples who marked themselves as married in the census questionnaire were counted for the first time, though in a separate result.
This differs from the past method in which couples who listed themselves as married were automatically coded.
Alex Greenwich, national convenor for the Australian Marriage Equality lobby group, said the inclusion of gay couples in the census is a reality check for decision-makers in Canberra. He said many of them went overseas for their marriage rites since Australian legislators are still debating on the issue.
Both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Coalition leader Tony Abbott are not in favour of legalization of same-sex unions. While Ms Gillard is open to a conscience vote on the matter among Labor MPs, Mr Abbott wants coalition members to tow the party line on gay marriages.
Preliminary results of the census said that Australia's headcount is 22.3 million which is lesser by about 300,000 from the 22.6 million estimates in mid-2011. Observers said the loss of 294,400 Australians is like wiping out one-year population growth.
By state, Victoria registered the highest growth rate at 8 per cent or 408,000 people, while New South Wales logged a 5.8 per cent increase or 395,400 people.
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