Today New Zealand became the 13th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage and the first in the Asia-Pacific region. Hundreds of activists celebrated at New Zealand’s Parliament and people watching from the public gallery sang the New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana” in the indigenous Maori language.
The gay-marriage bill passed 77 to 44. New Zealand has allowed civil unions, which give many legal rights to gay couples. This law will authorize joint adoption for gay couples and allow their marriages to be recognized in other countries. It will take effect in August.
"In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals,” Prime Minister John Key said in response to the bill’s passage. “In the end, this is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand."
Key’s support for gay marriage came shortly after President Barack Obama declared his support for same-sex unions last May. Soon after Obama spoke his stance to the world, Key said he was, “not personally opposed” to the idea. Bill sponsor Louisa Wall then presented the bill, which she had previously drafted.
New Zealander Tania Bermudez said she is looking forward to marrying her partner: "This means we can feel safe and fair and right in calling each other wife and wife."
This law could affect New Zealand’s neighbor, Australia, where advocates have only made a small push for gay marriage. But New Zealand’s new law could encourage gay couples from Australia to make the three-hour flight to the small island nation to marry. Rodney Croome, national director for Australian Marriage Equality, said 1,000 people have signed an online survey saying they would travel to New Zealand to marry. Those marriages would not be recognized under Australian law and Prime Minister Julia Gillard opposes same-sex marriage.
Not everyone in New Zealand supports the change. The lobbying group Family First presented a petition to Parliament last year against the bill. Since then 75,000 people have signed it.
"Historically and culturally, marriage is about a man and a woman, and it shouldn't be touched," Family First founder Bob McCoskrie said.