New Zealand Parliament Votes Overwhelmingly in Favor of Gay Marriage Bill

Let's all raise a glass of champagne (or cup of coffee) in a celebratory toast in honor of New Zealand for becoming the 13th country in the world to officially legalize gay marriage!

The same-sex marriage bill went through its third and final reading in New Zealand Parliament on Wednesday night where it was then voted on and passed with 77 to 44 votes. The hundreds of marriage equality advocates who had gathered around the Parliament building and in the building's gallery immediately started to celebrate by cheering and singing the traditional Maori love song "Pokarekare Ana."

New Zealand has allowed civil unions since 2005, but even those — meant to offer equal legal rights to same sex couples — had fairly extreme legal limitations. The new same-sex marriage bill will not only allow couples to officially call themselves married, but it will also allow them to jointly adopt children for the first time and have their marriages legally recognized when traveling abroad.

Says NZ Prime Minister and supporter of the bill John Key, "In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals and, in the end, this is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand."

During the Parliamentary proceedings, bill sponsor Louisa Wall (pictured above) told her fellow lawmakers, "In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal — it's a declaration of love and commitment to a special person...Nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill."

The bill did face its share of opposition. Lobbying group Family First petitioned tirelessly to stop the legislation from going through and are currently caterwauling about how it should have been put to a public referendum instead of a parliamentary vote. Chances are that it wouldn't have changed the outcome as two-thirds of New Zealand's public stands in favor of same-sex marriage.

The law will go into effect in late August.

New Zealand Lawmakers Approve Gay Marriage Bill [NYT]

Image via Getty.