Hundreds of jubilant gay-rights advocates celebrated at New Zealand’s Parliament as the country became the 13th in the world – and the first in the Asia-Pacific region – to legalise same-sex marriage.
Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favour of the gay-marriage Bill on its third and final reading. People watching from the public gallery broke into song after the result was announced, singing the New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana” in the indigenous Maori language.
“For us, we can now feel equal to everyone else,” said Tania Penafiel Bermudez, a bank teller who said she already considers herself married to her partner Sonja Fry, but now can get a certificate to prove it.
In one of several speeches that ended in a standing ovation, Bill sponsor Louisa Wall told lawmakers the change was “our road toward healing”.
“In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal – it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” she said.
Lawmakers from most political parties were encouraged by their leaders to vote as their conscience dictated rather than along party lines. Although Ms Wall is from the opposition Labour Party, the Bill was also supported by centre-right Prime Minister John Key.
He said: “In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals. This is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand.”