The first Parliament vote on New Zealand’s bill which would approve marriage equality has been a success, with a majority of 80 to 40 in favour of the legislation.
Out lesbian MP Louisa Wall was pleased and relieved that so many of her fellow MPs supported her bill in the conscience vote, as a packed public gallery watched.
Wall’s ‘Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill’, which will now be studied by a select committee in Parliament before being voted on again for it to become law, aims to amend the country’s Marriage Act to include same-sex couples who seek to commit to each other. Same-sex couples in New Zealand have been able to get Civil Unioned since 2005.
“Tonight is an historic moment for New Zealanders and a step toward the legal recognition that loving couples, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to marry,” she said.
“History tells us that the struggles for the gay community, as with any minority, have often been cruel. What has been heartening in this discussion has been the positive response from younger people across the board.
“It is a generational issue, but it is also an issue about personal experience, and the fact that when you have a friend or a whanau [family] member who is gay, you don’t want them to suffer or have less rights than you. That is not fair or just.”
Wall’s bill makes it clear that a religious minister will not be forced to marry gay couples – they can opt out.
“Because we have freedom of religion in New Zealand, no religious body is bound to marry a couple if that marriage is at odds with their religion’s belief,” she clarifies.
Hear her final speech on the bill before the MPs voted below.
Among the most remarkable experiences of the MPs involved in voting for the bill was that of Paul Hutchison. Below, he explains that even a few hours before the vote, he told media that he’d vote against it – but he had a sudden change of heart.