On Wednesday, the New Zealand Parliament voted 77-44 to approve marriage equality in its final reading, making it the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so. This marks the first time a marriage equality law explicitly defines protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity — rescinding requirements that trans people divorce before they can change their gender marker on their birth record. The bill still requires “royal assent,” a mere formality, and couples should be able to start marrying in August.
New Zealand brings the total number of countries that have legally recognized same-sex couples’ right to marry to 14, counting France, which still has a final technical vote next week in the National Assembly, where it already previously passed. Uruguay became the 12th country to support the freedom to marry earlier this month.
The group Australian Marriage Equality is using this opportunity to shame its country’s “corresponding failure” to pass marriage equality as something they feel “deeply embarrassed” about. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who opposes marriage for same-sex couples, was unmoved by New Zealand’s accomplishment.
Upon passage of the bill, the gallery broke out into singing the traditional New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana,” which includes the translated lyrics, “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.” Watch the powerful moment: