Gay marriages likely within months

Last updated 05:00 18/04/2013

Marriage bill passes

Louisa Wall
BIG NIGHT: Louisa Wall's private member's bill for marriage equality became law.
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Same-sex couples may be tying the knot as early as August after a momentous vote to legalise gay marriage was passed last night.

Labour MP Louisa Wall's bill faced its final hurdle in Parliament yesterday after MPs voted in its favour 77 votes to 44 during the committee stages last month.

Related story: How the MPs voted

Related story: Gay marriage opponents licking wounds

Hundreds packed into Parliament's public gallery as the debate began, many having waited for hours outside in the rain.

Dressed in a bespoke rainbow-striped jacket, Ms Wall was optimistic about the vote. "Today is about celebrating the fact that we do have the third vote before the House and so I'm very excited about the opportunity that that vote brings."

Ms Wall and her civil union partner, Prue, are not planning to marry but will discuss whether to do so.

She admitted some of the correspondence she had received since launching the bill was unpleasant. "Sometimes it's just been really nice to stay at home and block everything out."

However, "nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill".

Marriage had long been used as a tool of oppression, whether to prevent interracial marriages, to remove women's rights, or to stop Jewish people marrying German nationals under the Nuremberg laws, she said.

"Principles of justice and equality aren't served if the key civil institution of marriage is reserved for heterosexuals only."

Her speech received a standing ovation.

National MP Maurice Williamson spoke next and said all the bill did was allow people who loved each other to have that recognised. "And I can't see what's wrong with that, for love nor money."

NZ First leader Winston Peters was the first dissenting speaker. There had been a year-long debate on gay marriage and no one was any the wiser, he said.

His party was voting against the bill because it wanted a referendum to decide on the matter. "Some claim there is a huge groundswell for change, well, is that so, and if so, how do we know that it's true?"

Green MP Kevin Hague said opponents of the bill became increasingly unreasonable as the debate wore on. "Their problem with this bill is they believe gay and lesbian people to be morally inferior. They don't want to include us as full participants in New Zealand society."

When he first got together with his partner, nearly 29 years ago, it was illegal for them to have sex or show affection, he said.

Wellington's gay community was out on the town and ready to celebrate as the debate began. In the city centre, Scotty & Mal's Cocktail & Lounge Bar was packed. Drew Hadwen, 43, of Newtown said: "Today's a great day for equality, it's about time."

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Gay couples will be able to say they're married. As married couples they will be eligible to adopt children, usually children already being raised by those couples.

There will still be brides and grooms.

Celebrants won't be forced to marry same-sex couples if it is against their beliefs.

Churches won't have to hold marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

- The Dominion Post


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