New Zealand Becomes 13th Nation to Legalize Marriage Equality

New Zealand’s parliament voted 77 to 44 on Wednesday to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, making the country the first in the Asia-Pacific region and the 13th in the world to embrace marriage equality. The law is expected to take effect in August.

New Zealand has allowed civil unions for same-sex couples since 2005, but the new marriage equality law will confer two more crucial rights: couples will be allowed to jointly adopt children, and their marriages will be recognized in other countries.

In one of several speeches that ended in a standing ovation, bill sponsor Louisa Wall told lawmakers the change was “our road toward healing”.

“In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal – it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” she said. She added that “nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill”.

The marriage movement gained momentum in New Zealand when American President Barack Obama last year announced his support for same-sex couples’ right to marry, according to the Huffington Post, even though the U.S. is far from fully embracing marriage equality:

The change was given impetus last May when U.S. President Barack Obama declared his support for gay marriage. That prompted Prime Minister Key to break his silence on the issue by saying he was “not personally opposed” to the idea. Wall then put forward the bill, which she had previously drafted.

Same-sex marriage is recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a law last week that President Jose Mujica is expected to sign. Nine states in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not.

In addition, the success of the New Zealand billĀ puts pressure on legislators in nearby Australia to also push forward a marriage equality bill. The advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality expects at least one thousand Australian couples to head to New Zealand to marry as soon as the measure takes effect, even though their marriages won’t be recognized when they return home to Australia.

“It’s wonderful for them that they can marry so close to Australia, but of course all of those couples would prefer to marry in the country they love with their family and friends nearby,” [spokesman Rodney] Croome said.

Mr. Croome says the New Zealand decision will be a “game changer” when it comes to the debate on same-sex marriage in Australia.

“This will increase pressure on our politicians to take action,” he said. “Australians will be saying ‘we need to catch up’, our politicians need to do the same.”

All this talk about an international movement for marriage equality and the U.S. is STILL struggling to legalize equal marriage on a state-by-state basis. Major congratulations to all those who worked for this historic moment in New Zealand, and I truly hope the rest of the world — hint, hint, America — is taking note.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at

  • Sam B

    For those who don’t follow NZ politics, that would be almost everyone who follows this blog I would imagine. The MP in the video – Maurice Williamson- is from the National party, this is NZ’s right(ish) wing party. He has a reputation for being one of the more conservative members, yet as the video shows he is in full support of equality.

    In fact 26 of the 40 members of the National Party, including the Prime Minister, voted in favour of the law. As did the only self confirmed creationist in Parliament – John Banks. His speech was equally relevant, though not as funny.
    [Quote taken from the NZ Herald website]

    Act Leader and social conservative John Banks said he did not believe the God he believed in would think any less of him for voting in favour of the bill.

    He also used the principle of freedom to guide him in his decision.

    “When making this decision, I had to ask myself: ‘ Will New Zealanders have more freedoms as a result of this bill? Yes.

    “Will freedom of religion be preserved? Yes.

    “Will anyone’s freedom’s be taken away by this bill? No.

    “Would the God that I believe in think any less of me for voting for this bill? No.

    “That’s why I support this legislation.”
    Until more conservatives around the world can adopt these attitudes, I don’t see the number of countries legalising basic human rights.

  • WallofSleep

    That’s one of the many things that perplexes me about social conservatives in my country (U.S.).

    If smaller gov’t/less gov’t intrusion into our private lives is a conservative value, then it should logically follow that marriage equality is also a conservative value. Of course, the mistake I am making here is expecting people to apply logic to their political philosophy.

  • MD

    I didn’t think New Zealand could be any cooler. I was so wrong.

  • rhodent

    No, the issue isn’t conservatives failing to apply logic to their political philosophy. The issue is that smaller government isn’t and never has been a conservative value. The simple fact is that “small government” (along with “states’ rights”, and a host of other slogans) has never been anything but a verbal cudgel that conservatives have beaten the left over the head with when it was convenient and ignored completely when that was the convenient thing to do.

  • chicago dyke

    this is completely true.

    lesbians of NZ: i am single! available! willing to tend your gardens, grow your kiwi, raise your lambs… call me! i make a great wife.

  • Lurker111

    MP Williamson, besides being a good guy, also appears to be a frustrated (?) stand-up comedian. Whenever he retires, he’ll have a second career to lean on.

  • Nick

    Proud to be a kiwi! #loveisthewinner

  • slaq

    And after this bill was signed into law did Australia burst into flames? Did the earth open up and swallow them down into the bowels of Hell? Surely something must have happened.

  • Kengi

    You mean New Zealand.

    Australia will claim protection from bursting into flames since they overwhelmingly killed a same-sex marriage bill back in September. I guess they aren’t as laid back as they like to pretend.

    In this case, the Kiwi’s lead the way in human rights.

  • TiltedHorizon

    I love Australia, between marriage equality and neap tide they continue to prove that that true equality won’t cause the world to implode and that the tide does not always go in and out.

  • WallofSleep

    In my defense (do I need one?), I did start the second sentence with the word “If”.

  • Edward

    I understand it’s fairly easy to immigrate to NZ if you have skills / work experience and English proficiency. I understand Wellington has a pretty good LBGT scene.

    (P.s. I think you mean kiwifruit. The kiwi is the national bird of NZ)

  • Kengi

    Except Australia doesn’t yet have marriage equality. In fact, they aren’t even close…

  • 3lemenope

    We have also never been at war with Eastasia.

    But seriously, folks, some strands of conservatism have historically been very interested in subsidiarity (the theme park version of which can be described as “small government”, though the principle is a bit more complicated). Some strands have not. It is certainly true that lately neither party in the US has been particularly interested in either this or simpler notions of restricted government, and it *has become* little more than rhetoric, as you suggest.

    It is simply an error (and a bad one) to argue that this has always been true.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Crap. I misread it. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Tom Farrell

    Great. So now I have more civil rights in Mordor than in the US.

  • cipher

    Same-sex marriage is recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium,
    Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland,
    Argentina and Denmark. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a law last week that President Jose Mujica is expected to sign.

    Each and every one of those countries will experience a natural disaster.

    Any minute now.

    Just wait…

  • chicago dyke

    i am surrounded by pedants! ack!

    and who says i can’t farm kiwi birds? huh? you? ;-)

  • Tim

    We have a Conservative Prime Minister in the Uk who is pushing through a SSM bill. This is what he said in the middle of a long speach which took a consrrvative view of economics, public spending and immigration:

    But we’re also doing something else. I once stood before a Conservative conference and said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and another man. You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.

    And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

  • Tim

    New Zealand – so much better than Old Zealand

  • Tim

    Camille – you need to post the rest of the video!

    What happened next is that the public gallery and many MPs burst into singing a baffling (to a non-Ziwi) but very moving Mouri love song!
    NZ rocks!

  • Stamen

    Proud to be a Kiwi. We have also decrimalised Prostitution. But Dope and Euthanasia are still illegal.
    The reference from the Huffington Post about us following Obama’s musings is insulting and vacuous. This is home grown. New Zealanders (like much of the world I suspect) is ashamed of US moral poverty. If we took our ethical guidance from you we would be living in the Dark Ages.

  • Nikita

    Canada did, his name is Stephen Harper.

  • Nikita

    For those interested this video has the people singing the Maori song…

  • slaq

    No, I meant Australia. It’s a well know fact that God has no idea where New Zealand is, so he just takes out his rage against them on Australia.

    (My bad, I have no idea why I said Australia.)

  • Sids

    Dammit Australia. Don’t let New Zealand beat us. Get it together. It’s embarassing.

  • Guesty von Guestheim

    Don’t worry, I thought you did that intentionally to be silly.

  • ve6

    some bodily orifices are for exit only mate.