Jubilant gay-rights activists celebrated inside New Zealand’s parliament, as the country became the first in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise same-sex marriage.
As the final count was announced, (77 to 44 votes in favour of the gay-marriage bill), both spectators in the public gallery and lawmakers on the floor embraced one another then broke into song.
The New Zealand love song Pokarekare Ana, sand in indigenous Maori tongue, echoed proudly throughout the room.
For Labour Party minister Lousia Wall, one of the bill sponsors, the decision was part of “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,” Wall said as she received a standing ovation, adding that: “nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill”
The bill was also strongly supported by the ruling conservative party leader, Prime Minister John Key:
“In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals,” Mr Key told reporters. “And, in the end, this is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand.”
Despite this, the same sentiments were not felt across the Tasman.
Both Australia’s leader and opposition leader were left unmoved by the decision, which saw New Zealand become the 13th country in the world to legalise gay marriage.
But not all hope is lost; according to many gay rights activists, including independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, the vote will place pressure on New Zealand’s neighbour.
“The growing international pressure that was just taken up a notch with New Zealand embracing this important reform is sending a message that marriage equality is unstoppable,” Greenwich told reporters in Wellington.
”If New Zealand can do it, Australia can as well.”
Despite this, as many as 100 Australian couples have already indicated they would happily travel to New Zealand to marry, especially considering it’s a far shorter journey than the one to other countries who have also legalised same sex marriage.
”Most Australian same-sex partners would prefer to marry the person they love in the country they love but, now that marriage equality is only three hours away, there will be a flood of couples flying to New Zealand to tie the knot and spend their money,” Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said.