By Malissa Rogers
Lawmakers in New Zealand passed the first vote on Wednesday in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage; a move inspired by President Obama’s support of the issue.
If passed into law they will be the twelfth country in the world to recognize gay marriage.
“If I’m really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama’s announcement, and then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer,” Louisa Wall, a lawmaker with the Labour Party, told The Associated Press. “The timing was right.”
In an 80 to 40 vote, Parliament held the first of three votes that are required to pass the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill into law. After the first vote, the public is allowed to weigh in on the issue and only a simple majority is needed for a second vote. According to the Huffington Post, it is believed that the bill will be passed because of the wide support of the public and of the political leaders in New Zealand.
President Obama’s stance on gay marriage pushed Prime Minister John Key to announce that he was “not opposed to the idea.” Wall, who is openly gay, also pushed forward a bill to lawmakers, which she had drafted previously.
New Zealand does recognize same-sex civil unions, but activists have argued that these laws do not provide equal rights to gay couples. Such unequal rights include joint child adoption for gay couples, a right that will be granted if the law is passed.
However, Bob McCoskire, founder of the conservative lobby group Family First, said civil unions should be enough. McCoskire helped organize a petition, signed by 50,000 opponents of the bill, which was later presented to lawmakers.
“Equality doesn’t mean sameness,” McCoskire said. “Marriage has always been about the relationship of a man and a woman because of their natural potential to have children.”
Regardless of the difference in opinions, more than two-thirds of New Zealanders are in support of gay marriage and most of the country’s political leaders are in favor of the issue as well, according to recent polls.
“Today is the time to open the institution of marriage to all people who are eligible,” Wall said, according the New Zealand Herald. “There is no reasonable ground on which the state should deny any citizen the right to enter the institution of marriage if he or she chooses.”