Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favour of the gay-marriage bill sponsored by Louisa Wall on its third and final reading.
“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.”
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.
“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 didn’t vote along party lines, but each voted based on their beliefs and as their conscience dictated. Although Ms Wall is from the opposition Labour Party, the bill also was supported by centre-right Prime Minister John Key.
“In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals,” Mr Key said.
“And, in the end, this is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand.”
Since 2005, New Zealand has allowed civil unions, which confer many legal rights to gay couples. The new law will allow gay couples to jointly adopt children for the first time and will also allow their marriages to be recognised in other countries. The law will take effect in late August.