Great news coming out of New Zealand today … the country has become the 13th in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. As you may know, there has been a flurry of positive progress in the fight for marriage equality all around the world (Uruguay just last week became the 12th country to legalize same-sex marriage, France is expected to become the next country to legalize the practice this Summer) and today’s news out of New Zealand is just the most recent. While we, here in the US, await the ruling on same-sex marriage from the Supreme Court (due out in June), I think we can take some comfort in the fact that the fight for equal treatment has been a major success for the Kiwis in New Zealand.
Hundreds of jubilant gay-rights advocates celebrated at New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday as the country became the 13th in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favor of the gay-marriage bill on its third and final reading. People watching from the public gallery and some lawmakers immediately broke into song after the result was announced, singing the New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana” in the indigenous Maori language. “For us, we can now feel equal to everyone else,” said Tania Penafiel Bermudez, a bank teller who said she already considers herself married to partner Sonja Fry but now can get a certificate to prove it. “This means we can feel safe and fair and right in calling each other wife and wife.” In one of several speeches that ended in a standing ovation, bill sponsor Louisa Wall told lawmakers the change was “our road toward healing.” “In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal – it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” she said. She added that “nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill.” Lawmakers from most political parties were encouraged by their leaders to vote as their conscience dictated rather than along party lines. Although Wall is from the opposition Labour Party, the bill also was supported by center-right Prime Minister John Key. “In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals,” Key said. “And, in the end, this is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand” … The change in New Zealand could put pressure on some of its neighbors to consider changing their laws. In Australia, there has been little political momentum for a change at a federal level and Prime Minister Julia Gillard has expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage. Some Australian states, however, are considering gay-marriage legislation. Rodney Croome, the national director for the lobbying group Australian Marriage Equality, said that since Friday, 1,000 people had signed an online survey saying they would travel to New Zealand to wed, though same-sex marriages would not be recognized under current Australian law. “There’s this really big, pent-up demand for this in Australia,” Croome said. “New Zealand is just a three-hour plane ride away, and many couples are going to go to New Zealand to marry. They are just so sick and tired of waiting for the government to act. I think it’s going to spark this big tourism boom” … Same-sex marriage is recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a law last week that President Jose Mujica is expected to sign. Nine states in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not. In his speech before Wednesday’s vote, lawmaker Tau Henare extended a greeting to people of all sexual identities and concluded with a traditional greeting in his indigenous Maori. “My message to you all is, ‘Welcome to the mainstream,’” Henare said. “Do well. Kia Ora.”
This is great news to start the day, I think. Slowly but VERY SURELY, marriage equality is becoming a reality in places all around the world. The fight for equal treatment under the law will not be quelled by hatred and ignorance … try as they might. Believe me, I know it is frustrating and very difficult to see this kind of progress happen in places all around the globe and, yet, same-sex couples here in the US are still denied the same right to marry but … it will happen. It will. Let’s celebrate with our friends in New Zealand who are now among the leaders in the world when it comes to the recognition of marriage equality. Woot! I am very much looking forward to the day when we Americans can join in the jubilant celebration of marriage equality in our own country.