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Topics In the News
 
New Zealand Marriage Equality Bill Advances
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 08/29/12
Last updated on: 08/29/12
 
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Equality bill sponsor Louisa Wall addresses New Zealand's Parliament.

On August 29, 2012, New Zealand's lawmakers overwhelmingly advanced a marriage equality bill, approving it on first reading by a vote of 80 to 40. In order to become law, Parliament must vote on it three times. The large majority by which it passed on first reading, however, makes it likely that marriage equality in New Zealand will be achieved by the end of the year.

As the Associated Press reports, polls indicate that about two-thirds of New Zealanders support marriage equality, which is also supported by most of the country's political leaders, including Prime Minister John Key.

On July 30, 2012, Key said that he will vote in favor of legislation authorizing same-sex marriage and that he will allow a conscience vote on the measure, which would permit members of his center-right government to make independent decisions as to how they vote on the bill.

According to the Australian website newscom.au, the Prime Minister said, "My view has been that if two gay people want to get married then I can't see why it would undermine my marriage."

He had earlier said that "he was not opposed to same-sex marriage."

Since 2005, New Zealand has offered same-sex couples civil unions that provide all the legal rights and responsibilities as marriage except for adoption. The marriage equality bill currently under consideration includes adoption rights.

The bill that was approved on first reading was introduced by openly gay Labour MP Louisa Wall.

Wall attributed the broad support her bill enjoys to President Obama's endorsement of same-sex marriage. "If I'm really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama's announcement, and then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer," Wall told the Associated Press. "The timing was right."

There is opposition to marriage equality in New Zealand. Opponents of the bill recently presented a petition to lawmakers signed by 50,000 people. Bob McCoskrie, founder of the conservative lobby group Family First, which helped organize the petition, said civil unions go far enough in providing legal rights to same-sex couples and there's no need to redefine marriage.

However, the marriage equality bill has attracted some surprising support. For example, the leader of a minor New Zealand political party with a history of opposing gay rights has confirmed that he will vote to support marriage equality. ACT party leader John Banks, who in 1986 voted against decriminalizing homosexuality, told media that he now supports equal marriage rights.

Andrew Potts of GayStarNews attributes Banks' change of heart to the fact that the youth wing of his party threatened to withdraw their support of him if he did not support marriage equality.

Potts says that Banks' support means that MPs from every New Zealand political party represented in Parliament will vote for the bill except for the anti-immigration New Zealand First party.

Wall said that her interest in advancing the bill was not "self-interest . . . . For me, this is fundamentally about living in a fair and just society."

In the video below, Wall speaks in favor of her bill on the floor of the New Zealand House of Representatives.

 
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