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New Zealand passes gay marriage law

New Zealand will become the 12th country since 2001 to recognise gay marriage should bill become law.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
Image: Mustafa Quraishi/AP/Press Association Images

THE NEW ZEALAND parliament has overwhelmingly passed the first stage of a gay marriage law.

The vote on the marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was passed by 80 votes to 40, a margin that should see it pass the two remaining votes before parliament.

Should it pass, New Zealand will become the 12th country since 2001 to recognise gay marriage, which polls indicate  about two-thirds of New Zealanders support.

Before the bill’s reading, lobby groups gathered the signatures of 50,000 people opposed to it.

“Throughout history and in virtually all human societies, marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman. Marriage reflects the complementary natures of men and women” Bob McCroskie, the head of Family First told the New Zealand Herald. If marriage was redefined, there was nothing to stop it being redefined again to allow polygamy, polyamory and incest.

A legal adviser to the campaign also suggested that religious celebrants who refused to perform gay marriages could be breaching the Human Rights Act.

However Louisa Wall, an MP with the opposition Labour party, assured parliament that if the bill became law, ministers or other religious celebrants would not be forced to offer gay marriage ceremonies.

“That is the situation now, and nothing will change. And because we have freedom of religion in New Zealand no religious body is bound to marry a couple if that marriage is at odd with their religion’s belief.”

Prime Minister John Key, who came out in support for gay marriage after US president Barack Obama did the same, warned his fellow National Party members that debate on the bill would likely be “very emotionally charged. There will be a deluge of email campaigns both ways on this issue.”

Irish campaigners for gay marriage welcomed the result of the vote.

“This is a great step forward for New Zealand and for lesbian and gay couples living in New Zealand,” said Brian Sheehan of Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. “The vote is another example of the growing political and public support for access to civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples. With the success of civil partnership the next step for Ireland is to move to full constitutional equality for lesbian and gay people by providing access to civil marriage.”

Same sex marriage is now recognised in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Canada, South Africa and Argentina.

Taoiseach should not be forced to give opinion on gay marriage>

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