Australia votes on same-sex marriage: What you need to know

Thousands attended a rally calling for a yes vote in Melbourne on August 26.

(CNN)Australia is the closest it has ever been to legalizing same-sex marriage.

On November 15, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed 61.6% of Australians had voted in favor of legalizing marriage equality as part of a national postal survey.
In total, 79.5% of Australian voters took part in the voluntary vote.
    Australia's parliament will now debate how to turn the people's choice into law, but it could be more complicated than it sounds.
      Conservative politician and "no" advocates are calling for extensive religious protections in any bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
      It's been a long process -- a national vote was first proposed by the government in 2015, when Australia was already far behind many other English-speaking nations when it comes to same-sex unions.
      So why is the issue so divisive in Australia?

      What do Australians think about gay marriage?

      Almost every poll in the past decade has shown a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.
      As early as 2007, polling showed a majority of Australians were in favor of allowing marriage for same-sex couples. Since then, poll after poll has shown the same thing.
      Overall, about four-fifths of Australians are accepting of homosexuality in general, Pew Research data published in 2013 reveals, one of the highest numbers in the world.
      Gay rights in Australia haven't always been fast to arrive -- homosexual sex was illegal in parts of Australia up until 1997 -- but on marriage equality their opinion now seems clear.

      Why is it taking so long?