New Zealand holds first legally recognized LGBT weddings

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New Zealand marked its official legalization of marriage equality with a bevy of LGBT weddings. With thirty-one LGBT couples expected to marry on August 19, Natasha Vitali and Melissa Ray became the first same-sex couple to wed in the South Pacific nation after winning an all-expenses paid wedding, while gay couple Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau married with Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband as witnesses while on an Air New Zealand flight.

“To be married at 30,000 feet beneath strings of fairy lights with our children, friends and family as witnesses makes an already memorable day that much more special,” Bendall said in an Air New Zealand press release.

Bendall has been in a relationship with Wanikau for thirteen years and were delighted to have a celebrity at their event.

“Me and Justin Mikita are so excited to celebrate equality in [New Zealand] with Lynley and Ally at their wedding on [Air New Zealand],” Ferguson tweeted.

New Zealand approved marriage equality in April. Openly gay elected official Louisa Wall introduced the bill and attended Vitali and Ray’s wedding.

“I feel very proud to have had my marriage equality bill pass through the New Zealand parliamentary process with support from across the House,” Wall said in an interview with the Washington Blade. “Today we can celebrate the reality of our law change which allows any two people who love each other, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity to commit to one another in the institution of marriage.”

New Zealand was the fourteenth country to legalize marriage equality; at present, thirteen American states and the nation’s capital have legal same-sex marriage.

“It’s a day that will be very special for all those who worked so hard to make marriage equality a reality,” New Zealand Campaign for Marriage Equality spokesperson Jackie Russell-Green said in an interview with Washington Blade.

Aside from New Zealand, the UK and France recently approved marriage equality.

“I hope those who have expressed opposition through the process are able to see how important this recognition of equality and human rights is to the family and friends of those who will marry and for the LGBTI community,” said Wall. “My hope is that the joy is contagious and shared by all New Zealanders.”

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