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New Zealand moves toward marriage equality

In the first of three votes, a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage sails through without issue.
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An openly gay parliamentarian introduced a bill that would legalize marriage equality and adoption for same-sex couples in New Zealand and it passed the first of three votes with a large majority. (PEDRO ARMESTRE/AFP/Getty Images)

New Zealand is one step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage, after the proposed Marriage Amendment Bill passed its first reading, 80 to 40 votes. This was the first of three votes the bill must pass before becoming a law, but the future looks like smooth sailing, despite a few objections.

In just the few months since President Barack Obama announced his personal support for marriage equality, MPs in New Zealand have jumped at the opportunity to follow suit, and push for equality legislation in their country.

"If I'm really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama's announcement, and then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer," the openly gay the author of the bill, Louisa Wall, told The Associated Press. "The timing was right."

Civil unions have been legal in New Zealand since 2005, but adoption for same-sex couples is not. This new bill would change that, and make it so that same-sex couples have all the same liberties straight couples do. 

More from GlobalPost: Scotland to legalize gay marriage, ahead of the rest of UK

Based on New Zealand's basic marriage law, the Marriage Act of 1955, the bill seeks to define marriage by saying, "a marriage is a union of 2 people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It will ensure that all people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose."

The Act of 1955 did not specifically define marriage, and thus this is an addendum to that law and declares that marriage is "a fundamental human right."

There has been opposition to the bill, mostly from Conservative and religious groups. A petition with over 48,000 signatures was presented to Parliamentarians Ross Robertson, Su’a William Sio and Damien O’Connor, who are members of Wall's own party, reported PinkNews. 

Family First, one of the lobby groups strongly opposed to marriage equality and an organizer of the petition, said "civil unions go far enough in providing legal rights to same-sex couples and there's no need to redefine marriage," according to the AP.

More from GlobalPost: France to legalize gay marriage in 2013

"Equality doesn't mean sameness," said Family First founder Bob McCoskrie to the AP. "Marriage has always been about the relationship of a man and a woman because of their natural potential to have children."

Meanwhile, supporters of the bill, along with groups like Legalize Love and Campaign for Marriage Equality, organized a march of over a thousand people in Wellington yesterday, and New Zealand's Justice Minister, the Honourable Judith Collins, announced her support of marriage equality just last week. 

"Frankly it would be really nice if we could look at people as human beings rather than be always saying ‘you can’t do that because you’re gay’ or whatever," said Collins to GayNZ.com. 

For more of GlobalPost's coverage of marriage equality, check out our Special Report "The Rainbow Struggle: A Global Battle Over Gay Rights."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/rights/new-zealand-moves-toward-marriage-equality