30 Aug 2012

Gay marriage bill passes first hurdle

5:42 am on 30 August 2012

Legislation making same-sex marriage legal in New Zealand has passed its first reading in Parliament.

The members' bill in the name of Labour Party MP LouisaWall passed by 80 votes to 40 on Wednesday night. There were no abstentions.

The vote on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was a conscience vote, meaning each MP cast their own, rather than being bound to party lines.

Ms Wall, the MP for Manurewa, told Parliament she is proud to be the sponsor of the bill which she says seeks to define marriage as between two people - regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

"It is generally known as the bill which will enable marriage equality between consenting adults, underpinned by principles of love, fairness in equality of opportunity for all New Zealand citizens."

Ms Wall says the conversation about marriage equality is happening globally and it is great that New Zealand is part of that.

The bill will now be considered by a Parliamentary select committee and will be open to public submissions.

More than 1000 people marched to the steps of Parliament in support of the bill on Wednesday afternoon.

Rally spokesperson Conrad Reyners says it was an opportunity to celebrate the bill being introduced to Parliament and New Zealand taking a step towards equal human rights.

"It was really important to have this rally today to ensure there was a public demonstration of the support that everyday normal Kiwis have for marriage equality and for Louisa Wall's bill.

"But I think what we're trying to do is to give a public celebration of where we're at and just say to MPs 'It's okay - you don't need to be worried about this.'"

However, the bill has met opposition, with 70 church leaders signing a statement calling for it to be withdrawn and a 48,000-signature petition to reject the bill presented to Parliament by the group Family First New Zealand on Tuesday.

Hundreds marched to Parliament in support of the bill.

Hundreds marched to Parliament in support of the bill. Photo: RNZ

Church leaders enter debate

Catholic Archbishop of Wellington John Dew and Anglican Dean of Nelson Cathedral Nick Kirk are among those to speak against the Marriage Amendment Bill.

The statement from the 70 church leaders says the issue is not about equality but about the nature of marriage.

It says MPs should recall and honour the assurances they made in 2004 that marriage would be respected as the union of a man and a woman and that civil unions were a good and acceptable alternative.

Wesleyan Methodist National Superintendent Richard Waugh says MPs need to be in no doubt of mainstream Christian views on re-engineering a basic human institution.