- (Photo: CIA World Factbook)
New Zealand's Parliament passed a bill Wednesday that would make it the 13th country in the world to officially legalize same-sex marriage, despite opposition from traditional family groups.
"In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal – it's a declaration of love and commitment to a special person," said Labour MP Louisa Wall, the openly gay politician who introduced the bill. "Nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill."
The bill passed with 77 votes in favor and 44 against, BBC News reported.
The Oceanic country is set to join Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden in fully legalizing gay marriage, though other nations, like the U.S., allow the practice on a state-to-state basis.
Many gay rights supporters celebrated outside the parliament in the capital Wellington, where the bill was passed, calling it a victory for equality. BBC noted that New Zealand's population has generally embraced changing the definition of marriage, though liberals and conservatives have pointed to different surveys disputing how many support or oppose gay marriage.
Many conservatives have said that the bill goes against long held traditional beliefs. Conservative Party leader Colin Craig said many citizens do not agree with redefining marriage.
"We're seeing the politicians make a decision tonight that the people of this country wouldn't make," Craig said.
"Historically and culturally, marriage is about man and a woman, and it shouldn't be touched," stated Bob McCoskrie, founder of the lobby group Family First.
In New Zealand, Anglicans make up 13.8 percent of the population, according to the CIA World Factbook (Protestants in total are 38. 6 percent), Roman Catholics represent 12.6 percent, and up to 32.2 percent of the population has no religious belief. While both the Anglican and Catholic churches support traditional marriage, they have not been able to stop the shift toward gay marriage acceptance in the country.
"Changing the legal definition and therefore the meaning of the word marriage doesn't change what it has always been – a unique covenant between a man and a woman," Christian lobby group New Zealanders for Marriage previously said in a statement.