Thursday, 18 April 2013

NZ marriage equality bill a boost for global human rights

Extraordinary scenes yesterday as the New Zealand Parliament passed its  Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill by a vote of 77 to 44. Struggling to carry out his official duties, the Speaker of the House calls for order. Watch the video on the page. "Members and the gallery, I just ask that you refrain from any comments. There will be a waiata after the clerk has announced the third reading. But I just ask so that we can get the procedures of the House completed. Members, the ayes are 77, the noes are 44." The applause starts up and most of the members join the gallery in applause, before the clerk makes the third reading. Immediately thereafter a voice rings out in a call to song and the gallery joins in a traditional Maori song of celebration.

In a moving display of solidarity, most people in the Parliament joined together in song to mark the passing of the bill. The bill was a private member's bill sponsored by gay Labour MP Louisa Wall, who said that a cross-party working group that had been established "shows we are building on our human rights tradition as a country". National MP Tau Henare said Australians would come to New Zealand for wedding ceremonies. "Hopefully it will push the Aussies into doing something." But Julia Gillard said she won't be moved on the issue.
Asked by a member of the public at a community cabinet in Melbourne on Wednesday night why Australia lagged behind New Zealand in legalising gay marriage, [Prime Minister Julia Gillard] said she would not be changing her mind on the issue. 
"I doubt we're going to end up agreeing," Ms Gillard said.
Last year, the Parliament in Australia had a vote on marriage equality but Gillard refused to make equal rights Labor policy, and the Opposition leader did not allow a conscience vote. The bill was not passed.

The news from Wellington was posted on the website of the Australian, but quickly removed, not unsurprisingly given that paper's conservative orientation. The news was noted internationally by the New York Times and by the Guardian.

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