The Dominion Post reports…
“There was a party atmosphere and cheers of jubilation as New Zealand last night made history by legalising same-sex marriage – while outside Parliament, opponents of the law change were licking their wounds.
Christian lobby group Family First, which led the charge against the bill, labelled it “shot gun” legislation and accused MPs of an “arrogant act of cultural vandalism”.
Labour MP Su’a William Sio, who also opposed the bill, was more tempered, saying he represented many of Labour’s Pacific supporters in his decision to speak out against the bill.
“From the outset I said this was not an issue that was a priority to members of my constituency,” Mr Sio told National Radio.
“Those same people are asking me, ‘well how many jobs were created as a result of this, does it raise income levels?’.”
The passage of the bill by 77 votes to 44 was all but a done deal last night after previous votes in the process revealed overwhelming support.
But there was still plenty of raw emotion in the debate, lightened by humour and some regrets, before MPs exercised a rare conscience vote.
ACT leader John Banks, who as a former National MP was a leading opponent of decriminalising homosexuality in the 1980s, admitted his views had changed since he described the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform bill as evil and sickening.
After “three decades, and 10 Parliaments, I have had time to reflect,” Mr Banks told Parliament.
“To reflect on what I said, and what I did.
“If I knew then, what I have learned since, I would have acted differently.”
Queues started forming outside Parliament hours before last night’s debate got underway and an extra screening room was set up to handle the overflow.
Around the country, people watched the vote screening live on big screen.
There were some harsh words, mainly for some of the bill’s staunch Christian opponents, who bombarded MPs in the final days before the vote with scripture and warnings about rotting in hell.
There were also angry words between MPs, with National’s Tau Henare accusing his former leader in NZ First, Winston Peters, of being a shyster and pandering to rednecks.
But the issue also bought together MPs from all sides of the House in a rare show of cross-party activism.
Labour MP Louisa Wall, who promoted the bill, said allowing same sex couples to marry meant a lot to gay couples.
“In our society the meaning of marriage is universal – it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person.” she said.
Green MP Kevin Hague was almost lost for words after the vote but said this was the culmination of 27 years of work since homosexuality was decriminalised in 1986.
New Zealand has become the 13th country to legalise gay marriage but it will be August before the first same-sex weddings can be held.
The terms “bride” and “groom” will remain but people will be able to opt to use “partner” instead.
There are safeguards in the bill to prevent marriage celebrants from being forced to marry couples if it is against their religion.”