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Congratulations New Zealand!
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 08/20/13
Last updated on: 08/21/13
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Congratulations to New Zealand on the dawn of marriage equality. At 9:00 a.m. on August 19, 2013, the island nation's marriage equality law took effect. Thirty-one same-sex couples had given official notice of their plans to marry on the first day. One wedding took place at 30,000 feet in the air aboard a flight between Queenstown and Auckland, the result of a contest sponsored by Air New Zealand.

Toby Manhire reports in The Guardian that an Australian couple, Paul McCarthy and Trent Kandler, were married in Wellington at New Zealand's waterfront national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa. The men, from Newcastle, New South Wales, had been flown with their families to the capital after winning a New Zealand Tourism competition to encourage destination weddings from Australia, where same-sex marriages are not recognized.

Natasha Vitalia and Melissa Ray were wed at the Unitarian Church on Auckland's Ponsonby Road. Their ceremony began at 8:00 a.m. and concluded precisely at 9:00 a.m., when the new law went into effect. Louisa Wall, the MP who was the chief sponsor of the bill, participated in their wedding.

Air New Zealand marked the occasion by hosting the wedding of Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau on a flight from Queenstown to Auckland. In addition to family and friends, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, American actor and marriage equality activist who performs on the television series Modern Family also participated in the wedding. Bendall and Waniku have been together for 13 years and have three children.

On April 17, 2013, New Zealand's Parliament passed the marriage equality bill on a vote of 77 to 44, making it the 13th nation to extend equal marriage rights to all its gay and lesbian citizens. Upon the announcement of the vote, cheers resounded in the gallery and on the floor and both visitors and parliamentarians broke out into song.

Isaac Davison reports in the New Zealand Herald that after the declaration of the vote visitors and Members of Parliament applauded and then joined in a waiata, a Maori song or chant that expresses the wisdom of ancestors. The waiata they sang is a love song, "Pokarekare Ana," which is an unofficial national anthem.

The debate on the bill's final reading was conducted with humor and little acrimony, with only three members speaking against it. Members of Parliament were allowed a "conscience vote." The bill was supported by Prime Minister John Key and many members of his ruling center-right National Party, and by most members of the opposition center-left Labour Party.

The bill was sponsored by openly lesbian Labour MP Louisa Wall. After the vote, Wall told reporters, "Yay, we did it." She said she had hoped to get 61 'Yes' votes on the bill. "I never would have thought that Parliament would have overwhelmingly supported it."

She said that "nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill" and thanked her colleagues "for simply doing what is just, fair and right."

In the video below, witty MP Maurice Williamson speaks in favor of the bill and reassures opponents that the sun will rise in the morning.

The video below documents the announcement of the vote and the shows of jubilation that followed.

The video below was released by Air New Zealand following the wedding of Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau.

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