Yesterday, New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill passed in a vote of 77 to 44 during its third and final reading, despite mounting opposing from Christian lobby groups, and is expected to go into effect in four months.
Lousia Wells, the bill's sponsor, released a statement saying she was "very proud to be a member of a Parliament that has voted overwhelmingly to give New Zealanders, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender, the right to marry." A member of the rival party, Prime Minister John Key, also vocalized support for the bill. Key told reporters "In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals... And, in the end, this is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand."
Hundreds of couples celebrated outside of parliament after the bill was passed. One of the people celebrating told reporters, "For us, we can now feel equal to everyone else... This means we can feel safe and fair and right in calling each other wife and wife." Opinion polls show that roughly two thirds of New Zealand citizens support same-sex marriage, although other polls had this number closer to 50%.
New Zealand is now the 13th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Last week, Uruguay passed a bill legalizing same sex marriage, which is expected to be signed into law by President Jose Mujica.
Media Resources: Associated Press 4/17/2013; BBC 4/17/2013; CNN International 4/17/2013; Statement of Louisa Wall 4/17/2013