New Zealand: Fourteenth nation to legalize gay marriage

Wed. April 17, 2013 10:00 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

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 unions.

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.

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine