One more hurdle has been overcome by New Zealand as they push forward on the path towards marriage equality. A parliamentary committee in the country has called on the government to legalize same-sex marriage, although it did say that religious leaders should not be forced into marrying couples.
“The bill seeks to extend the legal right to marry to same-sex couples; it does not seek to interfere with people’s religious freedoms,” said the Government Administration Committee’s report released today, New Zealand Herald reports.
Last year, lawmakers in the country passed the first vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, paving the way for the committee to be formed.
The bill’s sponsor and Labor MP Louisa said that “marriage equality is about fairness and choice. This process has showed that that message has really resonated with New Zealanders.”
The report continued to say that it considered marriage to be “a human right and that it is unacceptable for the state to deny this right to same-sex couples.”
A second reading of the country’s Marriage Bill is to take place on March 13.
The Marriage Act 1955 is the country’s source for regulating marriage.
However, it does not specifically ban nor authorize marriage equality. Courts have been largely the leaders in making determinations on legislation.
In August last year, 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.
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.