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TVNZ, NZ HERALD, FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 3 NEWS (New Zealand)

Worldcrunch

WELLINGTON – New Zealand has become the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Parliament voted 77-44 late Wednesday to amend the 1955 Marriage Act to describe marriage as a union of two people regardless of their sex, sexuality or how they choose to identify their gender.

People were queuing in the rain outside Parliament, reported broadcaster TVNZ, to witness the groundbreaking legislation.

The line has already started to get into parliament and watch a little history #MarriageEqualityinstagram.com/p/YMcGLFu7UT/

— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) April 17, 2013

Crowds are spilling onto K Rd footpaths as they gather to watch Louisa Wall's Marriage Equality Bill #MarriageEquality

— Morgan Tait (@morgtait) April 17, 2013

Member of Parliament Louisa Wall, who introduced the bill, started the session with an emotional speech, saying “In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal – it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” reported Fairfax NZ News.

“Having Parliament recognize and address injustices and unfairness matters to those affected by it. It’s the start of a healing process,” TVNZ quoted Wall as saying.

“Excluding a group in society from marriage is oppressive and unacceptable,” said Wall, who later thanked her partner for "sharing this journey." “There’s no justification for the prohibitions of the past based on religion, race or gender.”

“Nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill,” she concluded, receiving a standing ovation and rounds of applause.

Watch her full speech here.

The bill passed after months of emotional debate, parliamentary submissions and passionate protests from both sides of the issue, reported the New Zealand Herald.

MP Louisa Wall in Parliament on Wednesday:

So pleasing to see #marriageequality trending above #thatcherfuneral. It's what she wouldn't have wanted.

— Patrick Strudwick (@PatrickStrud) April 17, 2013

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