There was little fanfare in Parliament last night as the bill to legalise gay marriage passed another hurdle, but outside more than 800 people were gathered in a two-sided protest.
Parliament's front lawn was divided in half with anti-gay marriage proponents holding a prayer vigil and sing-along on one side, and supporters waving flags and signs on the other.
The protest remained peaceful with about 500 anti-marriage equality proponents saying the Lord’s Prayer and singing along to a bag piper.
The roughly 300 supporters of the bill sang ‘‘we're going to the chapel and we're gonna get married’’ and waved signs including: ‘‘Do you really want your son to marry this dyke?’’.
Gay marriage could be legalised as early as next month after Louisa Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed its committee stages 77 votes to 43.
National minister Gerry Brownlee’s proxy vote was not cast, he dropped his support of the bill in the second reading.
Two suggestions that a referendum on the matter be held we ruled out of order, while other proposed amendments, such as allowing religious movements to preach marriage as being between a man and woman and allowing churches to refuse to host same sex marriages, were voted down.
Green MP Kevin Hague said the proposals were based on ‘‘imaginary concerns’’.
‘‘The speeches that have been heard in this House against the bill have, I am sure, been sincere; they have largely been motivated by fear, by fear of concerns that are largely imaginary, fear that has been worked up by a campaign in the community.’’
Labour MP Sua William Sio introduced several amendments aimed at strengthening religious freedoms.
‘‘My intention ... is to make appropriate distinction between the affairs of the state – protecting the equality rights of all citizens – and the affairs of a church and its members whom have a traditional view of marriage.’’
Outside, minister Margaret Mayman, of St Andrew’s on the Terrace, said she was comfortable with the safeguards that we in the bill and had turned out in support of marriage equality to show not all Christians were against it.
‘‘We support it because of our faith not in spite of our faith. I’m saddened because I think [the opposition] comes for a position of ignorance.’’
But itinerant minister Rasik Ranchord said marriage pre-dated the state and government and was not a piece of putty to be moulded into different shapes.
‘‘We want to see marriage protected. We are not against gay people we are simply protecting what we believe to be what marriage is meant to be.’’
The bill was subject to a conscience vote meaning MPs could make up their own minds on how to vote, rather than following the party line.