GALLERY, POLL: Marriage Equality Bill passes in New Zealand

There were tears, hugs, and cheers of jubilation as politicians voted to legalise same-sex marriage last night.

Labour MP Louisa Wall’s bill passed its third reading 77 votes to 44 in front of a packed house. Those gathered broke into a waiata as the numbers were read out.

An extra screening room was set up in Parliament with people queuing outside hours before the debate even began.

MPs shared the time allotted for speeches and around the country people gathered around to watch Parliament TV as the historical vote took place.

The few opponents of the bill present last night, some who were praying during the speeches, left quietly once the final result was read.

Supporters headed out to party.

Green MP Kevin Hague was almost lost for words but said this was the culmination of 27 years of work since homosexuality was decriminalised in 1986.

Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson said the bill wouldn’t stop discrimination but it gave people hope.

‘‘This is for the young people coming through now to know that this is for them.’’

Earlier Green MP Mojo Mathers gave a moving speech about watching her daughter go to a school dance with her girlfriend recently, and Customs Minister Maurice Williamson promised the sky would not cave in today.

‘‘I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this bill right now... the sun will still rise tomorrow, your teenage daughter will still argue back with you as if she knows everything, your mortgage will not grow, you will not have skin disease or rashes or toads in your bed.

‘‘So don’t make this into a big deal, this is fantastic for the people if affects but for most of us life will go on.’’

However, National backbencher Jonathan Young believed civil unions went far enough in recognising same-sex relationships.Marriage was an ‘‘age old’’ institution and such traditions guided society, he said.

NZ First leader Winston Peters warned his colleagues against not holding a referendum to gauge public opinion.

His former off-sider, and now National backbencher, Tau Henare said Mr Peters was just pandering to racists and rednecks.

‘‘Who decides if it should be a referendum or not? Him? I hope not Mr Speaker. Because we'd still be in the 1980s.’’

Outside gay marriage supporter Mandy Suess was celebrating: ‘‘it’s just about humans really’’.

She came all the way from Hamilton to witness the final reading and said it was empowering that people could campaign and make a difference in New Zealand.

New Zealand became the thirteenth country legalise gay marriage but it will be August before the first same-sex weddings can be held.

The terms bride and groom will remain but people will be able to opt to use partner instead.

There are safeguards in the bill to prevent marriage celebrants from being forced to marry couples if it is against their religion.

‘‘Yay we did it,’’ Ms Wall said.

‘‘In our society the meaning of marriage is universal - it's a declaration of love and commitment to a special person.’’

Fairfax NZ News

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