WELLINGTON, N.Z. — New Zealand will become the 13th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage as a bill to amend the current marriage law was approved moments ago by the country’s Parliament in its third and final reading on Wednesday.
With the bill’s passage, same-sex and transgender couples will be able to marry beginning in mid-August, and same-sex couples who married overseas will also be able to have their marriage officially recognized in New Zealand.
The measure, approved by a vote of 77-44, marks the most significant change to the country’s gay and transgender rights since New Zealand decriminalized homosexuality 27 years ago.
People watching from the public gallery immediately broke into song after the result was announced, singing a New Zealand anthem in the indigenous Maori language.
Prior to the vote, Green MP Kevin Hague told The New Zealand Herald it was the most important occasion in his time in Parliament.
“It is truly a historic moment in New Zealand’s social and political history. To be part of it is a fantastic opportunity.”
He added: “In a few years’ time, people will look back on this and wonder what the fuss was about.
“People will not marry their pets. Ministers will not be thrown into prison. People will not be prevented from using the words husband and wife or bride and bridegroom. Teachers won’t have any restrictions on what they can teach. And opposition which is based on these fears will melt away.”
New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country to legalize marriage equality for same-sex couples.
The bill will also have significant impact on the transgender community. Currently, married transsexual people are forced to divorce when they change their gender, but they will no longer be required to do so.
Last week, lawmakers in Uruguay also voted to legalize same-sex marriage, making the South American country the third in the Americas to do so, and the 12th country in the world.