New Zealand parliament approved same sex marriage Wednesday making it the 13th country in the world to do so and the first in the Asia-Pacific region.
Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favor of the measure and onlookers watching from the public gallery broke into song after the result was announced. They belted out in the indigenous Maori language the New Zealand love song "Pokarekare Ana."
"For us, we can now feel equal to everyone else," Tania Penafiel Bermudez said. She added she already considers herself married to partner Sonja Fry but now can get a certificate to prove it. "This means we can feel safe and fair and right in calling each other wife and wife."
Bill sponsor Louisa Wall said the change was "our road toward healing."
But despite the move, many people in New Zealand remain adamantly opposed to gay marriage. The lobbying group Family First secured 75,000 signatures from opposers. They presented the petition to Parliament last year.
"Historically and culturally, marriage is about man and a woman, and it shouldn't be touched," said Family First founder Bob McCoskrie. "It doesn't need to be."
But survey's indicate about two-thirds of the public supports same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark and Uruguay is poised to be next. Nine states in the U.S. also recognize same-sex marriages, but the federal government does not.