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New Zealand: Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passed

(Apr. 18, 2013) On April 17, 2013, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill by a margin of 77-44. (Isaac Davison et al., Same-Sex Marriage Law Passed, THE <?NEW ZEALAND HERALD (Apr. 17, 2013).) The bill amends the Marriage Act 1955 to add a definition of “marriage” that states that it means “the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” (Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill cl. 5, latest version available at New Zealand Legislation website.) For information on the bill’s passage and associated documents, see Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, NEW ZEALAND PARLIAMENT (last visited Apr. 17, 2013).

The Private Member’s bill was introduced by MP Louisa Wall and passed a First Reading vote in August 2012. (Kelly Buchanan, New Zealand: Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes First Vote, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Aug. 30, 2012).) It was the subject of widespread public debate, with the Select Committee that considered the bill receiving 21,533 submissions from members of the public and testimony from 220 submitters at hearings held in three cities. (Government Administration Committee, Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill: Commentary 9 (Feb. 2013).) The majority of the Committee recommended the passage of the bill with particular amendments, including an amendment to the Marriage Act 1955, to:

clarify beyond doubt that no celebrant who is a minister of religion recognized by a religious body enumerated in Schedule 1, and no celebrant who is a person nominated to solemnise a marriage by an approved organisation, is obliged to solemnise if solemnising that marriage would contravene the religious beliefs of the religious body or the religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions of the approved organisation. ( 3.)

The bill also makes consequential amendments to other pieces of legislation “to ensure that there will be no legal differences between different kinds of marriages.” ( 7.) This includes amendments to the Adoption Act 1955 to replace references to “husband and wife.” (Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill sch. 2.)

There were gatherings around the country to watch the debate on the bill. It was also reported that more than 1,000 Australian same-sex couples had indicated an interest in flying to New Zealand to get married should the bill pass. (Ali Mau to Marry if Gay Marriage Bill Passes, ONE NEWS (Apr. 17, 2013).) The Australian Federal Parliament voted against two bills that would have provided for same-sex marriage in September 2012. (Kelly Buchanan, Australia: Australian Parliament Votes Down Two Marriage Equality Bills, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Sep. 26, 2012).)