On Wednesday a marriage equality bill in New Zealand passed its first parliamentary vote by a wide margin of 80 to 40. This was the first of three votes Parliament must take before the bill can become law.
The Associated Press reports that about two thirds of New Zealanders support marriage equality. The legislation is also supported by most of the country's political leadership. New Zealand currently offers civil unions to same-sex and opposite-sex couples, but these unions notably lack several important rights conferred by marriage, including the right to adopt children.
The legislation was introduced by lesbian member of parliament Louisa Wall, who told the AP that U.S. president Barack Obama's May 9 announcement that he personally supports marriage equality provided a boost to the legislation in New Zealand.
"If I'm really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama's announcement," Wall told the AP. "And then our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer. The timing was right."
On the same day that Obama announced his support for marriage equality, New Zealand prime minister John Key broke his silence on the issue, saying he is "not personally opposed to gay marriage."
The New Zealand Parliament is also currently considering a bill that would reform child care law so that couples in a civil union — both gay and straight — would be allowed to adopt children.