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New Zealand's Journey to Marriage Equality

Updated on December 5, 2017
New Zealand's Government Buildings, and Pride Flags
New Zealand's Government Buildings, and Pride Flags | Source

A Long Time In The Making

New Zealand is a small country, of just over 4 Million people, in the Southern Hemisphere. A reasonably young country in the scheme of things. Known for being home to a World-Beating Rugby team (the All Blacks), the fabulous Lorde, the location of the filming for Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, Nuclear Free despite being the first to split the atom and creating nuclear reactions for example.

On the 17th of April, 2013, New Zealand became the 13th country in the world to legalise marriage between two people of the same-gender, or Marriage Equality, as the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed it's third reading in the New Zealand Parliament 77 ayes to 44 noes. The final step is Royal Assent of this Bill by the Governor-General. This occurred on the 19th April 2013, and marriage licences will be available to those in Same-Sex Relationships (of consenting age) from 19 August 2013.


How It Came To Pass Into Law

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill came about through a Private Members Bill. These are Bills placed in a Ballot by private Member's of Parliament (MPs). Usually this means that this is not a bill placed by a parlimentary party, but a member (or members) themselves. It is then decided whether the MPs may vote as a conscience vote or whether they must vote along party lines.

It was decided that MPs in New Zealand may vote on this matter in the form of a Conscience Vote. This means that if they were personally or religiously, or felt that their constituents in their electorates were, against Same-Sex marriage and the Political Party they belong to/work for was for it - they were able to vote against marriage equality. Most if not all took into account what their electorates felt on the issue, as well as their own personal feelings.

For such a bill to pass into New Zealand Law, it is required to go through three readings in Parliament, and receive Royal Assent. In this particular case, it was also required to go through the Select Committee for their approval and any changes they felt were required.

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was placed in the ballot box by Labour MP Louisa Wall on the 30 May 2012 after announcing she would be doing so on the 14 May 2012. This bill was drawn from the Ballot by chance, and received it's First Reading on 29 August 2012, passing 80 to 40, promoting a lot of debate around the issues. The Second Reading occurred 13 March 2013, passed 77 to 44. These readings help to air issues with the Bill, 'ironing out the creases' per say.

Each side of the debate is entitled to their say, in the form of speeches in the Parliamentary House. In New Zealand, this is also televised on Parliamentary Television (Channel 94 on Sky TV, also available on Freeview). At each stage of the process, there were those who were against, and those who were for the Marriage Equality Bill. Nearing the final reading - there were more for than against, however the votes had changed slightly - a slight decrease in "Ayes", and corresponding increases in "No's".

Louisa Wall - The Bill's Author

Louisa Wall

Louisa Wall, once a prominent Netball player, now a well known Politician for the Labour Party. Louisa identifies as lesbian, and currently has a Civil Union with her partner Prue. They initially had no intention to make use of the Marriage Equality amendment, to get married, however have recently been married Dec 18, 2015. However, Louisa could not stand by and watch as others were denied the rights of marriage.

Maurice Williamson - Epic Speech

Maurice Williamson

Maurice is a long term National MP. His vote was for the Marriage Amendment Bill, a vote sharing by near half of his political party. He has what he says are liberal views on social policy, but conservative economic views. He is known for voting for certain things to happen, before they are accepted by society such as Needle Exchange programs. However, what makes Maurice memorable in this instance is his speech - an impassioned speech that lay to rest some of the issues that he had been questioned about in his position. He has since been invited to speak on the Ellen Degeneres Show. This clip has been viewed over a million times in the last week (prior to writing this hub)

Mojo Mathers - Heartfelt Speech

Mojo Mathers

Mojo's eloquent speech style explained her views on the topic, and why she would be voting yes on this bill. Mojo Mathers is the first MP in Parliament to be profoundly deaf, and strives for the rights of people with disabilities. However it was her daughter who cemented her position on this bill. She is a member of the Green Party, a party in which 100% of it's MPs voted yes on this bill.

New Zealand Way to End Things - With a Song

The Ending Everyone's Talking About

New Zealand is a bi-cultural nation with three national languages - English, Te Reo Maori and NZ Sign Language. It is a Maori cultural tradition to ended speeches with a song particularly on Marae (sacred places for Maori). However, it is not unusual for there to be a song at the end of a proceeding. For us, as NZer's - this ending was what felt right, what felt normal for us. However, to the world it's a little different - can you imagine the US Senate ending in this fashion?

For us, it's just the way it is.

The song is a Maori love song - Pokarekare Ana. Wikipedia does have the english lyrics, however most New Zealanders only know it in Maori, and it means more in Maori somehow.

By Patrick Doheny (originally posted to Flickr as Lesbian Wedding 3) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Patrick Doheny (originally posted to Flickr as Lesbian Wedding 3) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons | Source

The Ending

For me personally - I am proud to be a New Zealander and a gay New Zealander at that. I am proud my country understand that my marriage to my wife will not affect anyone but us. That we will not harm anyone, and by denying equal rights, they are actually doing harm.

I just hope for the sake of my gay "family" - my US and international "Brothers and Sisters" that the rest of the world makes this realisation soon.

UPDATE: We took the step and changed our Civil Union to Marriage on our anniversary. My little family of 3 (two of us, plus our child) is now seen as equal in the eyes of our country. I'm more than happy to be raising our wee one in a country/time that sees all as equal in marriage.

The USA is slowly but surely making it's own moves towards marriage equality. Maybe by the time our child is at school, or a teenager, this business of fighting over whether gay people should be seen as equal in marriage will be looked upon in the same light as the racial tensions and segregation last century is looked upon now.

UPDATE 2 - CONGRATULATIONS AMERICA! SCOTUS ruled 26 June 2015 - that marriage is a constitutional right, and that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional! Welcome to the world of Equality! We, as a human race, still have a long way to go for those who are marginalised for any reason (be it sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, gender etc) to be fully realised and equally - but it is an awesome step forward!


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    • misterhollywood profile image

      John Hollywood 

      2 years ago from Hollywood, CA

      Loved this hub and all of the history. Extremely insightful and helpful for people wanting to know if the history of LGBT masrriasge eqaulity in New Zealand!

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from New Zealand

      You're welcome. Thanks for the debate - giving me other things to think on too.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      3 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I respect your willingness to debate. Thanks for the soapbox. We can disagree without becoming disagreeable. :)

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from New Zealand

      Nicomp - just think about it for a minute - you go on about people being denied equally the right to marry someone of the same sex. Turn it around - if everyone was denied the right to marry someone of the opposite gender, and that was the ONLY way in which you were attracted - therefore being attracted to the same sex was unnatural for you. Would you consider that you were equally protected, or that you were being denied something that didn't actually affect those protesting against it? You talk about it being denied to everyone equally - but it doesn't affect you - as you can happily marry the person that you were naturally attracted to of consenting age, of any race (thanks to another fight 50yrs ago that had many of the same arguments thrown at it). So, of course you'll see it as 'equally protected' because you weren't denied anything (I am of course, assuming you are straight. If you are not, my apologies - and we'll need a different discussion to errrr...straighten...some things out in my mind as to where you are coming from!)

      So I don't think it's being ignored. In fact, I think it's being completely realised - it's just that those who think it was the issue weren't the one affected by it - sure you were denied the right to marry someone of the same sex - but if you're straight it didn't affect you AT ALL did it? Yet, it prevented people from being at bedsides of dying loved ones, from being supported if a spouse was unwell, etc etc etc - these were the things being denied to those who have been affected by this ruling.

      States right issue - so...your marriage to your opposite sexed partner is recognised from state to state? Or if you aren't married - would be? Throwing property or driver's licences in there is just trying to confuse the issue - compare like with like. Marriage licence with marriage licence. Is yours recognised from state to state? Yes? Has it always been this way? (Unless of course, you have an interacial marriage - I can assume similar things happened then). Then why should mine be different if I was married in the States? (As it happens...I think mine would be carried over even internationally now, but not the last time I was in the US)

      Short sighted? Canada has had equality for 10yrs, no further concessions. Denmark (i think) has had equality for...almost 15yrs - no further concessions. But hey - if you think I'm being short-sighted - provide me with examples of what has happened elsewhere? In first world countries with marriage equality...I'm curious.

      Aside from the polygamy - the rest has to do with consent - inanimate objects and animals cannot consent to undertake anything with a human that would entail a relationship similar to marriage. In most first world countries, children cannot consent and there are significant protections in place, so throwing paedo's into the mix (I'm being pre-emptive here, it's often the next line of argument - not always but often) doesn't fly either.

      Anyway - you can have one last comment on the ruling in the US, and any questions I've asked in this one (and I will answer any of yrs), but I would like to keep the comments on MY hub, not the SCOTUS should write a hub if you want to discuss it further without detracting from other people's hubs - i'll happily come to yours (and hell, you'll even get paid for me visiting!)

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      3 years ago from Ohio, USA

      The states were deciding the issue. 38 out of 50 had made decisions. So you're incorrect about that.

      " It's not disrepectful to the Constitution if it's making sure that all citizens are protected equally under it "

      In the US, every citizen was already equally protected. No citizen had the right to marry someone of the same sex. No group or faction was singled out. This is the crucial point that everyone is ignoring. Equal protection does not mean that everyone gets to do whatever they want. Equal protection means that a law applies equally to everyone. The debate over discrimination is a straw-man.

      "Is it equal to have your marriage only respected in one state, but not another? "

      It's a states rights issue. It's not an equality issue. Can Ohio issue a deed on property in Kentucky? No, but by your logic they should be able to. Can Indiana issue a driver's license to a 10 year-old and insist that Michigan honor that license? Of course not.

      "...this is about how my country managed it - no slippery slope - no one has married three people, a dog, a toaster, their neighbours youngest child etc."

      A tragically short-sighted comment on your part, or you are simply duplicitous. The line will be pushed back even further, even if you want to look the other way today. Celebrate your victory but be prepared to support other people who want more concessions.

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from New Zealand

      I don't know a huge amount about the way in which the States decides it's laws, but I'm pretty sure that the Supreme Court only gets involved when it's unlikely that the States themselves will solve the issue.

      They were deciding whether it was un-constitutional to ban same-sex marriage and ultimately decided that it was unconstitutional. It's not disrepectful to the Constitution if it's making sure that all citizens are protected equally under it - and they decided that they weren't equal if States were allowed to ban marriages based on gender. It's not disrespectful because it was ruled in a way that you disagree with. It's much like the people who think that the 1st Amendment means that religion can dictate law, or that only one religion is okay. I've hear more than I can count shout about their First Amendment rights to Freedom of Religion, when what they are upset about is other religions also having Freedom of Religion. It cannot be translated to only mean anything to ONE group. But they get upset and say that their first amendment rights are being taken away...when they are merely being extended to others. This is the same thing, just a different Amendment. SCOTUS found that if you deny the right of marriage to same sex couples, it is unconsititional. How ruling that being disrespectful? More likely that it's being respectful of the Constitution by ensuring every one is protected equally, as the Constitution itself says they should be.

      Is it equal to have your marriage only respected in one state, but not another? I have numerous friends who married in other states, but were not seen as married in their home state. I know myself that if we were to visit countries that do not have equality - we would be seen as not married. Would you accept it as constitutional if you changed States and your marriage was null and void??

      I find it absurd that people are trying to say "they conjured this" or "they don't know what they are talking about", mostly because it goes against what they personally believe should have happened, when those who are saying this - have little to no experience in law, haven't worked in the legal system, nor been selected to be a Justice...yet they apparently have more knowledge than those who listened to the arguments, know the Constitution, and were selecteed to be part of SCOTUS.

      BUT, this isn't about the SCOTUS ruling - this is about how my country managed it - no slippery slope - no one has married three people, a dog, a toaster, their neighbours youngest child etc. All things that people said would happen if you had marriage equality. All that has happened is that hundred's of gay couples have been able to be recognised equally under the law, and therefore are happy gay couples. No one else's marriages have been nullified solely because of marriage equality. In fact, tourism has grown - as Australia (our nearest neighbour) does not have equality.

      So no more on the SCOTUS..write a hub if you feel that strongly.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      3 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I know nothing about the political and legal structure of New Zealand, but here in The Colonies this is a states' rights issue and should have been decided by the citizens of each state. Unfortunately the Supreme Court conjured up their decision rather than respecting the US Constitution.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Hurrah, New Zealand! A few US states have legalized gay marriage. Michigan, where I live, has gone back and forth.

      In recent decades I have been attending Unitarian Universalist churches, and UUs have been advocates for gay rights, including the equal right under the law to marry in both the civil contract and the community cultural ritual senses.

      Hopefully, in a case coming this summer, the US Supreme Court will decide that homosexuals have the same right to marry as heterosexuals in the USA.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 

      3 years ago from Shimla, India

      Hey that is one informational post.

      Voted up

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from New Zealand

      Ah, good to know cathylynn! Thanks!

    • cathylynn99 profile image


      3 years ago from northeastern US

      polygamy is illegal in all 50 US states.

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks Cheeky Girl - I love the quote at the end.

      Thunkful - thanks! I hope so too. I'm still very passionate about it, because I know those in the US do not share in equality yet. The fight doesn't end just because I can get married (and did!).

      Thanks for visiting!

    • thunkfulthinker profile image


      4 years ago from Ohio

      Hopefully, the United States takes a page from New Zealand and institutes and national law on marriage equality. It may be different because the U.S. is much larger, but I still would like to see a national law instead of 50 individual state laws.

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      4 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      I just saw a question from you in the forums, and I left a detailed reply to it. Well done New Zealand in coming into the 21st Century. All in all, it might have been slow to come to where we are now, but it is here.

      The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient.

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks Astra Nomik! So do I, I'm just thankful that NZ has decided that all are equal, and hope that the rest of the world follows suit in the near future.

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 

      4 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      I hope to see same -sex marriage everywhere some day. This is a great and informative hub on Marriage Equality.

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Firstly, thank you for your compliments re my writing.

      I do not share your feelings over the passing - I feel it is a positive step in New Zealand's history and I was saddened to think it took NZ so long, given we are often the first to treat others equally - our race relations with our indigenous are one of the best in the world, the Sufferagettes and Kate Shepard for the woman's right to vote and onwards to gender equality, the first country in the world to have a female PM, and also the first country in the world of have a Transgender Mayor (and then MP).

      You speak of marriage as a 'pre-political" and non-political entity. Am I to assume you mean it as a 'religious' entity. If this is the case - this would mean that any marriage not performed in a church was not a marriage at all. What of those who do not believe? Are their marriages not 'marriages"? However, one's religion is not everyone's religion, so are we to say that a Muslim marriage is not a marriage because it was not a christian marriage? Or a Hindu marriage? Or an atheist marriage? The marriage between a Christian and an Agnostic?

      You speak of children being without a mother, or father, in some form due to their parent's being same gender. It seems this comes up a lot in relation to people's concerns around children growing up without a female/male (delete as appropriate) influence. It is as though people think that gay people exist in a Bubble of Gayness - associating only with the same gender and gay at that. What people seem to forget is that gay people have families too - siblings, parents, cousins, aunties, uncles, friends of either gender. People who will play a large part in the lives of their children.

      Not to mention - many gay couples with children are in contact, or co-parent, their children with the donor/surrogate or other bio parent of their child. Much like a divorced couple - parenting the same child whilst not being in a sexual relationship with the other bio parent. I know of a child who has four parents - two bio, two the bio parents partners (actually, I know HUNDREDS of people like general) - the difference with this child is that the couples are same sex - but one from each couple is her bio parent. You speak as though once the 'deed' is done, the same-gender parents will not see the other bio parent ever in EVERY case.

      Lastly (for tonight at least), I find the second to last paragraph offensive. Comparing homosexuality with incest, beastiality and child abuse is both offensive and lacking in knowledge.

      The reason that incest between two grown people is illegal is due to genetic defects that are risked when people closely related conceive children.

      Marriage to a minor - consent is the issue here. Minors cannot consent as they do not possess the knowledge and insight to make such decisions, and particularly when adults are involved - coercion is the issue. And is tantmount to rape due to this.

      Beastility - consent again, but in a different way - animals cannot consent to the actions or marriage taking place.

      Polygamy is legal in many parts of the world, including several states in the USA. So I cannot comment on that.

      Otherwise, I do understand your points, but I disagree with them. I hope we can continue our civil conversation, and agree to disagree.

      Thanks again for your comments.

    • jlpark profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for your comments parrster. I don't have time to answer your questions appropriately right now but I will do so this evening.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 

      5 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for sharing Jacqui, you write exceptionally well.

      I lived in NZ for 18 years before immigrating to Australia, of which I have been a resident for 20 years. Your references to places, events and names bring back many memories.

      To be honest, I was disappointed with the Bills passing. I find the term “homosexual marriage” an oxymoron? To replace the traditional marriage model with another one (e.g. inclusive of homosexuals) is to destroy the institution of marriage altogether. It is not a matter of maintaining the current model while simply allowing others to join in. The redefining of marriage is the eradication of marriage itself and substituting for it something entirely different.

      Doesn't marriage necessarily involve a bride and a groom; a man and a woman?

      Is it not the union of a husband and wife; a man and a woman?

      To redefine it to include same-gender couples radically changes all the terms and concepts that have always been integral to this institution.

      Marriage never has been nor can it ever be gender neutral. Just as mixed-doubles tennis, by its very definition, is not gender neutral.

      Marriage is also pre-political and therefore a non-political entity. Lawmakers may recognize and sanction marriage, but are they at liberty to redefine it?

      Moreover, when marriage produces children, the marriage (according to design) naturally provides a mother and a father, something homosexual relationships simply cannot do. Even the reality of childless couples and single parents does not change this indisputable fact. Neither do childless couples and single parents redefine marriage. Proponents of gay marriage and gay adoption have yet to adequately explain which parent a child does not need – a mother or a father?

      Is there really a legitimate case to be made for so-called marriage equality?

      Is the rejection of homosexual marriage really a matter of human inequality?

      Equality entails the correspondence of things that are alike. Same-sex couples and heterosexual couples are inherently different, so to limit marriage to a husband and wife, and to withhold the descriptive terms “bride” from men and “groom” from women, does not constitute unfair treatment to those who simply do not meet the fundamental criteria.

      If marriage is the conjugal union of a consenting man and a consenting woman, then two men or two women cannot feel discriminated against any more than a woman and her adult son or daughter, or a man and his adult son or daughter, or biological siblings, or two minors, or a grown-up and a minor, or a human and an animal, or multiple partners, or one who is already married to someone else. There are many who just do not qualify.

      There has to be a standard.


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