April 17 - New Zealand legalizes same-sex marriage, becoming the 13th country in the world to do so and the first in the Asia-Pacific region. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
(ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: New Zealand on Wednesday (April 17) became the first country in the Asia Pacific region to legalize same sex marriages after its parliament voted overwhelmingly to extend gay and lesbian couples the right to tie the knot. Seventy-seven of 121 members of parliament voted in favour of amending the current 1955 Marriage Act to allow same sex couples to marry. "The Aye's are 77 and the No's are 44," announced the speaker. Cheers and applause erupted in the parliamentary public gallery when the vote count was announced. "Yay, we did it," said Louisa Wall, the openly gay opposition Labour Party MP who promoted the bill. "I have longed for this for a very, very long time. my only sadness is that both of my parents have now passed and it would have been such a huge joy to have them at my wedding," said openly gay Green's MP Kevin Hague, who has been with his partner for nearly 20 years, local media reported. The bill was widely expected to pass, given similar support for the change in a preliminary vote held last month. It will likely come into effect in August. New Zealand becomes the 13th country to legalize same-sex marriages, after Uruguay passed its own law last week. Australia last year rejected a similar proposal. Countries where such marriages are legal include Canada, Spain and Sweden, in addition to some states in the United States. France is close to legalizing same-sex marriages amid increasingly vocal opposition. The bill was opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and some conservative religious, political and social groups which campaigned that it would undermine the institution of the family. The law makes it clear that clergy can decline to preside in gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs. The law to allow same-sex marriages comes after New Zealand gave same-sex relationships partial legal recognition in 2005 with the establishment of civil unions.