New Zealand legislator, Metiria Turei

New Zealand legislator, Metiria Turei

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: Some United States legislators are backward. Attempting to restrict freedoms instead of enlarging them is detrimental to the progress of this country, especially when the issue is as harmless as same-sex marriage.

New Zealand is the latest nation to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples after its parliament voted 77-44 to approve the legislation. The Asia-Pacific country is the first in its region to endorse marriage equality and the 14 nation overall. New Zealand’s legislation is also the first to explicitly define protection based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a win for trans* communities. They will no longer have to divorce before changing their birth certificate.

The legislation requires “royal assent” from the Head of State, but couples should be free to wed in August.

Self-identified gay legislator, Louisa Wall, was hoping for 60 votes but is satisfied with the passing of the legislation. She yelled “yay” when the votes were tallied. Her joy was mirrored by native New Zealanders sitting in the gallery who began singing the traditional love song “Pokarekare Ana” when the legislation was passed.

The lyrics read, “I have written you a letter, and enclosed with it my ring. If your people should see it, then the trouble will begin… My poor pen is broken, my paper is spent, But my love for you endures, and remains forever more.”

New Zealand joins Urugray and France, both countries that legally recognize same-sex marriages. Australian’s are hoping New Zealand’s victory will persuade its legislators to consider similar legislation. The advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality expressed deep embarrassment that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is still opposing marriage for same-sex couples. The Australian Senate and House of Representatives voted down marriage equality legislation in September 2012.

National list MP Tau Henare also hopes New Zealand inspires Australia. “Hopefully it will push the Aussies into doing something,” he told the New Zealand Harris.

New Zealand decriminalized homosexuality in 1986.

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