New Zealand has approved the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill with a 77 to 44 vote, making the country the 13th in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first Asia-Pacific country to do so.
Attendees present burst into song, singing the country’s unofficial national anthem (video below), an indigenous Maori love song called “Pokarekare Ana.” Members of parliament were able to vote with their conscience, with no instruction from parties.
The first same-sex marriages are likely to occur in mid-August, as “The Department of Internal Affairs, which handles births, deaths and marriages, has been given four months to get its act together and prepare the procedures and license forms,” news.com.au reports.
“Excluding one group from marriage is oppressive and unacceptable,” said the bill’s sponsor, Labour MP Louisa Wall, in a press release. “Nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill.”
Earlier this week, Kevin Hague of the Green Party of Aotearoa spoke with 429Magazine on their successful efforts for the equality push with a strong commitment to organizing across traditional party lines and an effective partnership between community activists and members of parliament.
“[Marriage equality] has intense personal meaning for lesbian women and gay men who want to marry, and our families,” said Hague. “It unites two people and two families and enables us to take our place in a tradition that spans generations – so emotionally hugely significant at a personal level.”
Aside from public opinion, politicians and celebrities also supported the equality legislation.
“Perhaps more importantly, it sends a very strong signal from our parliament that gay men, lesbian women and transgendered people are absolutely full members of our society, with all the same rights and privileges, and that discrimination and prejudice are unacceptable,” Hague continued.
“This emphatic message should help build a more supportive social environment and thus undermine the stigma that sits at the heart of our terrible outcomes in suicide, depression, HIV risk, alcohol and drug issues and violence.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key was among those supporting the legislation. However, Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, still says she will not support marriage equality.
“I doubt we’re going to end up agreeing,” she told reporters.
New Zealand legalized civil unions in 2005 and decriminalized homosexuality in 1985. They now join a growing list of countries who have legalized same-sex marriage, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.