1000 march for same-sex marriage
About 1000 same-sex marriage supporters have marched to Parliament in support of the marriage equality bill, but opponents have also made their voice heard.
The colourful crowd carrying rainbow flags and placards reading "all love is equal" - gathered in Wellington's Civic Square at midday before marching down Willis St and Lambton Quay, stopping traffic.
The rally, organised by the Campaign for Marriage Equality, arrived at Parliament about 1pm.
MPs Louisa Wall addressed the crowd on the steps of Parliament, saying she was "surprised" with the turnout.
"I'm so inspired by the people who have come out in support of marriage equality," she said.
"I'm really excited about the opportunity I've got tonight to discuss marriage equality - I'm confident it will go to Select Committee."
MPs Tau Henare and Kevin Hague had also spoken in support of the bill.
About a dozen opponents to the bill, mainly Korean ministers, stood to the side of the rally quietly holding banners which read: "one man, one woman, that's true marriage".
Spokeswoman Victoria Koh said the ministers represented the views of the 40,000-strong Korean community in New Zealand.
It was important opponents to the bill were represented today at Parliament, she said.
"If no body expresses our opinion then the general public thinks there's no one opposing it."
Koh said she was surprised other opponents to the bill such as Family First were not at today's rally. "Foreigners living here have so much concern about the future of this nation."
Asked if there had been any animosity from the pro-gay marriage rally, Koh said: "No, we love them."
"That's why we want them to open their eyes and listen to their conscience."
More than 70 church leaders from throughout the country put their names to a joint statement opposing the bill going through to the second reading.
"This issue is not about equality but about the nature of marriage," the statement said.
"All human beings are equal in the sight of both God and society, but not all relationships are the same.
"Marriage has uniquely been about the union of male and female. The State should not presume to re-engineer a basic human institution. The complementary role of male and female is basic to the very character of marriage, along with having and raising children. Same-sex relationships are intrinsically different, so can never be regarded as true marriage."
Wesleyan Methodist National Superintendent Richard Waugh said Parliament needed to be aware mainstream Christian views were opposed to the bill.
A joint statement from the seven bishops of the Catholic church said they supported love in all forms, but marriage should be between a man and a woman.
"The Catholic Church affirms love, fidelity and commitment in all relationships, but believes that marriage should be defined as being between a man and a woman.
"Our concern is that defining marriage any other way will dramatically alter the family structure which throughout history has been seen as the fundamental unit in every society."
The church said although there were many different forms of families in New Zealand "there is a question to be asked about whether we want to legislate for a new norm of the family unit".
Joseph Habgood from LegaliseLove Wellington, one of the groups involved in the Campaign for Marriage Equality, said the march was a moment for celebration.
''Basically it's a big show of support, but it's also a day to celebrate.
''It's a lot of work for campaigners and it's still a struggle, but it's a good time to show how far we've come [as a country]. It's a show of happiness that this is actually happening.''
He said the rally was organised ''as soon as the bill was drawn''.
The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, was one of five bills drawn from the members' ballot last month, aims to amend marriage legislation to ensure gay couples can wed.
''The good thing about an issue like this is it's so easy to mobilise people because it's in the public forum and because it's something everyone should be able to support,'' Habgood said.
''It's not something that I think should be controversial. It's something to get behind ... It's a huge excitement.''
The bill has had pre-voting support from a number of MPs, including several who previously voted against civil union, such as Prime Minister John Key, UnitedFuture MP Peter Dunne and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.
Results of the parliamentary conscience vote should be available this evening.
The Dominion Post