At around the same time as Australia’s Parliament debates marriage equality, New Zealand’s Parliament will do likewise, as a Bill to legalise same-sex marriage was drawn out of a ballot today for action.
Championed by openly lesbian MP Louisa Wall, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill would allow all New Zealanders to marry regardless of their sexual orientation.
Since 2005, same-sex couples in NZ have already been able to commit to themselves with Civil Unions, which bring about similar rights to opposite sex couples entering into a marriage, but without the more controversial title ‘marriage’. In fact, the Civil Union Act was very similar to the Marriage Act, but with all references to ‘marriage’ replaced by the words ‘civil union.’
It’s a Private Member’s Bill that Wall says will come down to a conscience vote, meaning New Zealanders hoping to influence their local MPs decision must now contact their local representatives to push their views.
Also similarly to Australia, recent polling of Kiwi citizens suggests around 60% approve of marriage equality. Within Parliament, it’s a mixed bag and may come down to only a few votes either way.
Prime Minister John Key, the leader of the centre-right National Party, was quick to state “I’m not personally opposed to gay marriage,” immediately after US President Barack Obama showed his support back in May. He seems likely to support the Bill at least through its first reading in the Parliament, but Key voted against Civil Union legislation in 2004, so his support by not be sown up.
Because there were many Private Members’ Bills which could have been drawn out of the Parliamentary ballot box today, Wall is thrilled her Marriage Amendment Bill surfaced.
“The Rainbow Gods have smiled at us,” she told GayNZ.com this afternoon.
“There’s a global consensus around marriage equality at the moment, so it’s great that we can have the debate and discussion in New Zealand.”