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Same-sex couples to marry in N.Z.

AFP-JIJI

More than 30 same-sex couples will say “I do” Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalize gay marriage.

The move has sparked a raft of competitions to set wedding firsts, but also unease among the religious community.

The Department of Internal Affairs said Sunday same-sex couples have flocked to registry offices in recent weeks to pick up marriage licences and 31 couples have indicated they will be marry on Monday, usually the least popular day for weddings.

About 1,000 same-sex couples in Australia have indicated that they plan to travel to New Zealand to marry, according to the Australian Marriage Equality lobby group.

Established Christian churches, however, are uneasy about the new law, with Roman Catholics opposed outright while Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists are split.

The Anglican Church asked its ministers to refrain from conducting same-sex weddings pending a report to its general synod next year.