New Zealand backs gay marriage

New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise gay marriage Wednesday after a historic parliamentary vote.

Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favour of the legal change, which allowed gay marriage after a decades-long campaign.

"It is about saying these lives matter, our society is big enough for us," gay Green Party MP Kevin Hague told parliament.

New Zealand will become the 13th nation globally to allow gay marriage, according to Human Rights Watch.

Australia rejected a similar proposal last September and the issue has sparked heated debate in the United States, since President Barack Obama made support for same-sex unions a prominent part of his second-term agenda.