A bill which would make New Zealand the
twelfth nation to legalize gay marriage has been given initial
approval by lawmakers.
The bill received overwhelming support
in the second of three votes needed for approval. Wednesday's 77-44
vote was considered its most crucial. The final vote is considered
little more than a formality and could be taken as early as next
month, the AP reported.
Hundreds looked on in the Parliament's
public gallery as lawmakers debated the bill.
“I'm very excited, as excited as the
young people,” said Louisa Wall, the bill's sponsor, referring to
the crowd of mostly young people, estimated at over 200. “It's a
Wall, an openly gay member of the
Labour Party, has previously said U.S. President Barack Obama's
endorsement of marriage equality gave momentum to the bill.
“Marriage belongs to society as a
whole, and that requires the involvement of the whole of society,”
Wall told colleagues on Wednesday. “The role of the state in
marriage is to issue a license to two people who love each other and
want to commit to one another formally. That's what this bill does.”
New Zealand currently recognizes gay
and lesbian couples with civil unions.