New Zealand has become the first country in the Asia-Pacific region and the 13th in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
New Zealand law will now state that “marriage means the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity“.
In addition to allowing same-sex couples to marry, the bill rescinds the requirement that trans people divorce or change their relationship to a civil union before changing the gender marker on their birth record.
Same-sex couples who marry will now be able to jointly adopt children. New Zealand law allows only one member of an unmarried couple to become the legal parent of an adopted child.
Couples will be able to marry as early as mid-August, four months after the bill receives Royal assent.
Support for the bill among Members of Parliament has been strong since its introduction in 2012. The bill passed its first reading last August on a vote of 80 to 40. The second reading vote, held last month, was 77 to 43.
Countries which have already legalized same-sex marriage are the Netherlands (2001; special municipality of Saba, 2012), Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Spain (2005), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Argentina (2010), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Denmark (2012) and Uruguay (2013).
Marriage equality legislation is currently pending in Colombia, the United Kingdom and France, with the final vote in the French parliament expected on April 23rd.
Update: Watch observers in the gallery stand and sing a waiata in celebration of the passage of the marriage bill (h/t John Becker). The woman in the rainbow-striped shirt is MP Louisa Wall (Labour), the bill sponsor and an out lesbian.
Update (4/18): The Governor General gave Royal Assent to the marriage bill on April 19th. That means that same-sex couples can start marrying in New Zealand on August 19th.