Yesterday, I wrote about how an anti-gay New Zealand politician was persuaded to change his vote on an upcoming marriage equality bill by the youth of his party, who threatened to withdraw their support if he did not do so.
Little did I know that less than 24 hours later, there would be new news to report! From the Associated Press:
New Zealand lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly cast a first vote in favor of a gay marriage [sic] law that was given impetus by President Barack Obama’s public support of the issue.
The 80 to 40 vote in front of a packed and cheering public gallery was the first of three votes Parliament must take before the bill can become law, a process that typically takes several months and allows the public to weigh in. Only a simple majority was needed to ensure a second vote, and the margin is a strong indication that the law will be passed.
Should New Zealand pass the measure into law, it would become the 12th country since 2001 to recognize same-sex marriages. Some states in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not.
The AP report indicates that marriage equality enjoys overwhelming public support in New Zealand:
Polls indicate about two-thirds of New Zealanders support gay marriage [sic]. It also has the support of most of the country’s political leaders.
The country currently allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions that grant some, but not all, the rights of marriage. The proposed law, however, would give same-sex couples equal status and equal rights, including the right to jointly adopt children.
And as previously stated, there is a direct connection between the introduction of a marriage equality law in New Zealand and President Obama’s historic endorsement of marriage equality in May:
The proposed changes here can be directly traced back to Obama’s declaration in May in support of gay marriage [sic]. That prompted center-right Prime Minister John Key to break his long silence on the issue by saying he was “not personally opposed” to the idea. Then lawmaker Louisa Wall, from the opposition Labour Party, put forward a bill she had previously drafted.
“If I’m really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama’s announcement, and then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer,” Wall told The Associated Press. “The timing was right.”
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: one of the most important things that equality supporters can do for the LGBT civil rights movement is to volunteer for, donate to, and vote for pro-LGBT candidates. As these latest developments in New Zealand demonstrate, it makes a very real difference not just here at home, but on the other side of the world.