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Topics In the News
New Zealand Set to Achieve Marriage Equality
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/13/13
Last updated on: 03/13/13
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M.P. Louisa Wall, sponsor of the bill.

On March 13, 2013, New Zealand lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill allowing same-sex marriage on its second, and most crucial reading, making it almost certain that marriage equality will become law. The 77 to 44 vote indicates that the bill enjoys wide support in the legislature and will be easily approved on the final vote, which is likely to be little more than a formality and could be taken early in April.

As the Associated Press reports from Wellington, "More than 200 people crammed into the Parliament's public gallery to watch lawmakers debate the bill before they voted at about 10:15 p.m. The mostly young crowd clapped and cheered for lawmakers who spoke in support of the bill, and sat in silence for those who spoke in opposition."

"I'm very excited, as excited as the young people," bill sponsor Louisa Wall said after the vote. "It's a fantastic result."

In order for a bill to become law in New Zealand, it must be passed three times. After the first vote, a committee makes amendments and considers public reaction before bringing it back to Parliament for a crucial second vote. The third vote is usually a formality, especially if a bill passes by a large majority as is the case with the marriage equality bill.

Following the initial vote, which was 80 to 40 in favor, the committee made some minor changes to the bill, including wording to make it clear that clergy can decline to preside over gay marriage ceremonies if they conflict with their beliefs.

In her speech supporting the bill, Wall said that "Marriage belongs to society as a whole, and that requires the involvement of the whole of society." She added, "The role of the state in marriage is to issue a license to two people who love each other and want to commit to one another formally. That's what this bill does."

In her speech, the openly gay Member of Parliament quoted "Same Love," the song Seattle rapper Macklemore wrote in support of marriage equality in the state of Washington: "And I can't change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to, I can't change."

Polls indicate about two-thirds of New Zealanders are in favor of marriage equality, which is supported by most of the country's political leaders, including Prime Minister John Key.

On July 30, 2012, Key said that he would vote in favor of legislation authorizing same-sex marriage and that he would 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.

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."

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.

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 in August. "The timing was right."

In the video below, from August 2012, Louisa Wall introduces the marriage equality bill in the New Zealand Parliament.

In the video below, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, with Mary Lambert, perform "Same Love," which Wall quoted from in her March 2013 speech.

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