New Zealand lawmakers voted on Wednesday to legalize marriage equality in a sound victory that saw song break out in parliament.
Watch the historic moment unfold below and hear the haunting “Pokarekare Ana,” a lovesong rendered in the indigenous Maori language:
Testimony before Wednesday’s 77-44 vote saw passionate speeches, and even some comedy.
New Zealand Member of Parliament Maurice Williamson even took time to consider the supposed “gay onslaught” naysayers were predicting should marriage equality be made law.
“Sir, we are really struggling to know what the gay onslaught will look like,” Williamson said. “We don’t know if it will come down the Pakuranga Highway as a series of troops or whether it’ll be a gas that flows in over the electorate and blocks us all in.”
He also took time to address accusations from a local preacher that he was condoning “an unnatural act,” saying, “I found that quite interesting coming from someone who’s taken an oath of celibacy for his whole life.”
Watch the video below:
The legislation will amend the 1955 Marriage Act to provide same-sex couples the right to marry. As is standard, the legislation also contains exemptions to emphasize ministers have the right to refuse to officiate such weddings. The law is expected to come into effect in August.
It should be noted that New Zealand is the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage, so will this add pressure to the struggle in countries like Australia where lawmakers voted down marriage equality legislation last year despite a groundswell of support?
Not according to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Asked by a member of the public at a community cabinet in Melbourne on Wednesday night why Australia lagged behind New Zealand in legalising gay marriage, Ms Gillard said she would not be changing her mind on the issue.
“I doubt we’re going to end up agreeing,” Ms Gillard said.
Australia Marriage Equality (AME), the group leading the push for equal marriage rights, has said that while they congratulate New Zealand, they are “deeply embarrassed” that Australia lags behind, and they’re expressing it in terms lawmakers can understand: “Australia will lose a proportion of the estimated $700 million same-sex couples plan to spend on their weddings, as these couples spend their money in New Zealand instead.”
However, AME sounded a note of optimism too, describing the New Zealand vote as a “game changer” because of the “close links between our two countries.”
With this, New Zealand joins the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark in enshrining marriage equality in law. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a bill last week which will be signed into law shortly.
Lawmakers in France, despite concerted religious conservative resistance and threats of escalating violence, also recently approved legislation, and France looks set to be the next country to join the marriage equality fold.
Notably, Ireland’s Constitutional Convention also voted overwhelmingly this past week to support same-sex marriage rights, a move that does not technically have legal weight but essentially serves to force Ireland’s government to hold a public referendum on the issue.
The chorus of the marriage equality, it seems, grows louder every day.
Image credit: Thinkstock.