New Zealand became the 13th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage today after their parliament easily approved an amendment to their 1955 marriage laws. The country is the first in the Asia-Pacific region to allow gays and lesbians to walk down the aisle.
The new law will take effect this August, but same-sex marriage supporters—including those in Parliament—wasted little time beginning the celebration once it became clear that the bill was going to pass. MPs and observers broke into applause and cheers, and then someone started singing, "Pokarekare Ana," a very popular Maori love song. Most of the others in the room joined in. Watch for yourself (the singing starts at about the 1:15 mark):
The bill, which defines marriage as a union between two people, was sponsored by Louisa Wall of the country's Labour party. In her speech—one of many to draw a standing ovation—Wall, who is gay, said that "nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill." The measure had the support of multiple political parties in the country, including Prime Minister John Key, who is center-right, as the New York Times explains.
According to a report from Fairfax NZ News, the few opponents of the bill who were in the room left quietly soon after the measure passed. Here's what one MP told opponents regarding the measure:
Customs Minister Maurice Williamson promised the sky would not cave in today. ‘‘I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this bill right now... the sun will still rise tomorrow, your teenage daughter will still argue back with you as if she knows everything, your mortgage will not grow, you will not have skin disease or rashes or toads in your bed. So don’t make this into a big deal, this is fantastic for the people if affects but for most of us life will go on.’’
As Reuters notes, the law won't force clergy who are opposed to same sex marriage to oversee gay weddings, a fear raised by opponents of the bill.