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New Zealand Legalises Same Sex Marriage

New Zealand has become the thirteenth country in the world – and the first in the Asia Pacific region – to pass a bill legalising same sex  marriage. Their parliament voted 77 in favour, and 44 against the bill.

This is one of the last steps needed to pass a law; the final step, in which the governor-general gives his consent, is usually a given. The law is expected to be brought in to force within the next four months. The move comes a week after Uruguay approved a measure to legalise same sex marriage, and merely days after our Constitutional Convention here in Ireland voted in favour of recommending that the Oireachtas hold a referendum on the issue.

Kevin Hague is an MP, and spokesperson for the Green Party in New Zealand. He thoroughly welcomed the news, saying that when he and his partner first got together nearly thirty years ago, the message he picked up on was “we were outsiders and did not belong.” Over a hundred more gay rights activists celebrated outside the Parliament building, saying it was a “milestone for equality”. Both the New Zealand Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition party were in favour of the bill, which was first introduced by Labour MP Louisa Wall. She said afterwards, “nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill”.

A group called Australian Marriage Equality has said that at least a thousand same sex Australian couples have registered their interest in travelling to New Zealand to get married. Australian parliament overwhelmingly rejected the issue last year; their Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is against it.

The bill was vocally opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and various other religious and conservative organisations, with claims that it would “undermine the institution of the family unit.” The law also makes it clear that clergy members can refuse to officiate a same sex marriage if they choose.

There are dozens of videos of the Third Reading of the bill on YouTube – these two in particular are very good. The first shows Maurice Williamson give a particularly amusing speech regarding his feelings towards same sex marriage being legalised, and the second – if you skip to about a minute in – shows a rather emotional sing along in Parliament.

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