BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Shouts of jubilation erupted from the floor and gallery of New Zealand's parliament, followed by the singing of a waiata, a Maori love song, after the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed, 77 votes to 44 votes, April 17.
The legislation will take effect in August, 27 years after New Zealand decriminalized homosexuality, The New Zealand Herald notes.
Prior to the vote, the bill's sponsor, MP Louisa Wall, thanked her partner, Prue Kapua, for "sharing this journey with me."
"Nothing can counteract the very real negative consequences of not passing this bill. But nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill," she added. "I thank my colleagues for simply doing what is just, fair and right.''
Following the vote, Wall said she had only ever hoped that the "Yes" vote tally would be 61, the Herald reports.
"I never would have thought that Parliament would have overwhelmingly supported it . . . I think the cross-party working group has been incredibly effective, but it also shows we are building on our human rights tradition as a country,'' Wall said.
Green MP Kevin Hague, who has been with his partner, Ian, for almost 29 years, called the day "enormously powerful."
"When we got together it was against the law for us to have sex and express our love," Hague said during debate on the bill. "The message sent by the law could not have been clearer: we were outsiders. We did not belong."
"With this bill, our Parliament stretches out its arms to my community
and says, 'Our society is big enough for you, too. You belong
unequivocally and without having to compromise who you are,'" Hague said.
Australia Marriage Equality's Rodney Croome says New Zealand's passage of gay marriage legislation will be a "game changer" in Australia because of the close ties between the two countries.
"New Zealand shows how reform can be achieved when national leaders put politics aside and work together, unlike Australia's leaders, who are still playing politics with marriage equality," Croome says. He says that more than 1,000 Australian couples have indicated on an Australian Marriage Equality online survey that they plan to marry in New Zealand as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, those vows will count for nothing once they return to Australia, he points out.
Here's more of the debate in New Zealand's Parliament.