Same-sex marriage became legal in New Zealand on 19 August 2013. A bill for legalisation was passed by the New Zealand House of Representatives on 17 April 2013 by 77 votes to 44 and received Royal Assent on 19 April 2013. It entered into force four months after assent, to allow time for the Department of Internal Affairs to make the necessary changes for marriage licensing and related documentation. New Zealand is the first country in Oceania and the fifteenth overall to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Other type of partnership (or unregistered cohabitation)
Limited recognition of same-sex marriages at the federal level, no state level recognition
Same-sex sexual activity illegal
Quilter v Attorney-General
The case Quilter v Attorney-General had its origin in early 1996 when three female couples in long-term relationships were denied marriage licences by the Registrar-General because marriage under the common law was between one man and one woman. The case against the government was taken to the High Court in May 1996. The applicants argued that the Marriage Act did not prohibit same-sex marriage and that under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was prohibited.
In the High Court, both parties agreed that at the time the Marriage Act was written in the mid-1950s, marriage according to the common law was between one man and one woman, which explains why the Act did not specifically outlaw same-sex marriage. The applicants argued, however, that under the Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and sections 6 (Interpretation consistent with Bill of Rights to be preferred) and 19 (Freedom from discrimination) of the Bill of Rights Act, New Zealand prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and, therefore, the applicants should be allowed to marry. The government in response cited section 5 (Justified limitations) of the Bill of Right Act, which allowed rights and freedoms in the Bill of Rights to "be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society". In its decision, the High Court sided with the government and common law and reiterated that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The High Court decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal (then New Zealand's highest court) in December 1997, which upheld the ruling.
During the 2005 election, Prime Minister Helen Clark stated that she thought it was discriminatory to exclude same-sex couples from the Marriage Act, but said she would not push to change it.
Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill 2005
In 2005, United Future Member of Parliament (MP) Gordon Copeland sponsored the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill that would have amended the Marriage Act to define marriage as only between a man and a woman, and amend anti-discrimination protections in the Bill of Rights related to marital and family status so that the bill could stand. This was criticised by opponents, such as Attorney GeneralMichael Cullen, as an overly 'radical' attack on the Bill of Rights. The bill also would have prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages from foreign countries as marriages in New Zealand. The bill received a Section 7 report for being inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, specifically freedom from discrimination relating to sexual orientation.
The bill had its first reading debate on 7 December 2005, and subsequently failed 47 votes in favour to 73 votes against.
Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill – First Reading
On 14 May 2012, Labour Party MP Louisa Wall stated that she would introduce a private member's bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, allowing same-sex couples to marry. The bill was submitted to the members' bill ballot on 30 May 2012. It was drawn from the ballot and passed the first and second readings on 29 August 2012 and 13 March 2013, respectively. The final reading passed on 17 April 2013 by 77 votes to 44. Supporters in the galleries greeted the bill's passage with applause and sang the traditional Maori love song Pokarekare Ana. Conservative lobby group Family First NZ called its passage "an arrogant act of cultural vandalism". The bill received Royal Assent from the Governor-General on 19 April and took effect on 19 August 2013.
Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill – Third Reading
The Legalise Love campaign was launched in August 2011 to promote legal marriage and adoption equality in New Zealand, and a protest was organised at the New Zealand Parliament Buildings in October that year. In December 2012, former Governor-General Catherine Tizard starred in an online video campaign organised by the Campaign for Marriage Equality supporting same-sex marriage, alongside New Zealand singers Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith, as well as Olympian Danyon Loader. The Human Rights Commission, which also supports same-sex marriage, said that if the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill is passed churches will not be forced to perform a marriage between same-sex couples.
Public opposition to same-sex marriage has come from the Catholic Church in New Zealand, as well as from the Conservative Party and Family First. In June 2012, Family First leader Bob McCroskie announced the launch of a new website, Protect Marriage NZ, which outlines reasons for opposing same-sex marriage in New Zealand, which subsequently crashed on its first day after a large scale denial-of-service attack. A petition with 50,000 signatures expressing opposition to same-sex marriage was presented to parliament in August 2012, in the lead-up to the first reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. During the last fortnight before the third reading debate, several conservative Christian organisations held "prayer rallies" outside the New Zealand Beehive and in Auckland and Wellington against the enactment of marriage equality Anika Moa, who came out as a lesbian in 2007, was planning a free concert in Christchurch for the night of the third reading of the bill to "celebrate a historic milestone for same-sex couples".
In March 2013, the youth wings of all eight parties represented in Parliament jointly announced their support for the bill, including the youth wing of the New Zealand First party, whose MPs had said that they were going to vote against it.
After the third reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig called the legalisation of same-sex marriage a "failure of democracy", and warned "the day of reckoning" would come.
However, by early August 2013, Family First New Zealand had taken down its former ancillary "Protect Marriage New Zealand" website, and any entry of the URL resulted in arrival at the Family First website itself, with "Protect Marriage New Zealand" gone from the list of ancillary campaign oriented websites. The website has since been relaunched and is again active.