In the wake of votes in France and
Uruguay, New Zealand lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill
legalizing gay marriage, making the island nation the 14th
in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to approve such
Big crowds were on hand to witness
Labour MP Louisa Wall's marriage equality member's bill receive its
third and final reading in Parliament.
A roar of cheers echoed from the public
gallery as lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure with a 77-44
vote. Couples might be able to marry as soon as August.
Wall, who is openly gay, 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 before last month's crucial vote. “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.
Wall, who entered a civil union in
2011, has said she has no plans to marry her partner.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of
Freedom to Marry, applauded the move.
“With France poised to embrace the
freedom to marry within the month, and England and others likely to
move to marriage this year, the global momentum for the freedom to
marry is undeniable,” Wolfson said in a statement. “The momentum
is there because the more people have talked about gay people and why
marriage matters, the more it's become clear there is no good reason
to continue the exclusion from marriage. It's time for
decision-makers in the United States to end the denial of marriage,
do right by all families, and uphold our own American commitment to
liberty and justice for all.”
The measure must now receive Royal
Assent from the Governor General, Lt. Gen. Sir Jerry Mateparae, Queen
Elizabeth II's representative in New Zealand. Mateparae does not
have the authority to veto the measure.