New Zealand set to legalize gay marriage

AFP-JIJI

New Zealand was poised Wednesday to become the first Asia-Pacific nation to legalize same-sex marriage in a parliamentary vote that gay rights advocates have hailed as a milestone for equality.

A bill that amends the 1955 Marriage Act to describe marriage as a union of two people regardless of their sex, sexuality or how they choose to identify their gender was to have its third and final reading in Parliament late Wednesday. The proposal is set to pass convincingly after receiving widespread support during two previous debates, with the most recent vote last month running at 77 in favor and 43 against.

LegaliseLove Wellington coordinator Joseph Habgood said there was a festive mood in the country’s gay community, with nightclubs in the capital planning to screen the vote live and host parties marking the occasion.

“This will make a huge difference,” he said. “Not only for couples who want to get married but also for young people who are struggling with their sexuality. This is Parliament sending a message saying ‘you matter, you are equal.’ “