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Gay marriage vote like a 'World Cup final' - Wall

Thursday 18 Apr 2013 8:30 a.m.

Labour MP Louisa Wall has compared last night's vote on her bill to legalise same-sex marriage to a World Cup final.

In the end it wasn't even close, Parliament voting the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill into law by a comfortable 77-44 margin, the same as in its second reading.

"We've all woken up now to a New Zealand that fundamentally believes in the human rights of all New Zealand citizens," Ms Wall said on Firstline this morning.

"It's reminded me of a World Cup tournament… it's been quite challenging, but it got more and more intense as we got to the final, and last night was the final."

Opponents of the bill have bombarded her – and other MPs, as National's Maurice Williamson memorably spoke about during last night's debate – with emails, to little effect.

"The level of engagement hasn't been evidence-based," says Ms Wall. "It's been based on a lot of religious doctrine, being blamed for droughts, being blamed for a whole lot of other things that really from an evidence-based perspective didn't contribute as much to the conversation as it could have.

"But in saying all of that, I've respected the right of every New Zealand citizen to have their say and to contact MPs because that is our job, and we make our decisions based on a whole lot of things – including input from the public."

New Zealand is the 13th country to legalise same-sex marriage, and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to do so. Nineteen MPs spoke during last night's final debate, with 16 in favour and only three against.

Ms Wall has sought to reassure opponents that the bill in no way will compel anyone to officiate gay marriages if they don't want to.

"Section 29 has always been very clear in saying that any marriage celebrant was authorised but not obliged [to officiate a same-sex marriage], but that was enhanced through the select committee process to give explicit protection to religious celebrants, to ministers who by virtue of their particular religion have a specific definition of marriage.

"And the reality is, for a lot of our churches that definition is between a man and a woman. I think the space that this opens up now is for conversations within each church whether or not they want to be an inclusive church or whether they want to continue the current definitions that they have."

Some churches, such as St-Matthew-in-the-city in Auckland and the Christchurch Metropolitan Community Church, have announced they will happily accept gay couples, but others such as the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch won't.

"Nothing in this bill is going to compel religious organisations to change the beliefs that they have, but we made a very clear statement last night that the state cannot discriminate," says Ms Wall.

"This I think has balanced freedom from discrimination with freedom of religion very well."

Female MPs voted 4:1 in favour of the bill, while the men voted 3:2. Of Parliament's seven openly gay MPs, six voted for the bill, and one against (National's Chris Finlayson). Two MPs who voted against decriminalising homosexuality in 1986 voted in favour of same-sex marriage (Lockwood Smith and John Banks).

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