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Same-sex marriage in New Zealand

Legal status of same-sex unions
  1. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  2. When performed in the Netherlands proper

* Not yet in effect

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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, the fourth in the Southern Hemisphere, and the fifteenth overall to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The Parliament of New Zealand can enact marriage laws only in regard to New Zealand proper and the Ross Dependency (Antarctica).[1] The three other territories making up the Realm of New Zealand – the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau – do not perform or recognise same-sex marriage.


  • History 1
    • Quilter v Attorney-General 1.1
    • Ms. Juliet Joslin et al. v. New Zealand 1.2
    • 2005 election 1.3
    • Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill 2005 1.4
    • Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 1.5
  • Public opinion 2
    • Opinion polls 2.1
    • Public campaigns 2.2
  • Marriage statistics 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership (or unregistered cohabitation)
  No 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.[2]

Ms. Juliet Joslin et al. v. New Zealand

On 30 November 1998, two couples involved in Quilter v Attorney-General sued New Zealand before the United Nations Human Rights Committee claiming that the country's ban on same-sex marriage violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee rejected the case on 17 July 2002.[3]

2005 election

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.[4]

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 General Michael 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.[5][6]

Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill – First Reading
Party Votes for Votes against
Labour 1 49
NZ First 5 2
Green 6
Māori 3
United Future 3
Progressive 1
Total 47 73

Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013

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.[7] The bill was submitted to the members' bill ballot on 30 May 2012.[8] It was drawn from the ballot and passed the first and second readings on 29 August 2012 and 13 March 2013, respectively.[9][10] The final reading passed on 17 April 2013 by 77 votes to 44.[11][12] Supporters in the galleries greeted the bill's passage with applause and sang the traditional Maori love song "Pokarekare Ana", with many MPs joining in.[13] Conservative lobby group Family First NZ called its passage "an arrogant act of cultural vandalism".[14] The bill received Royal Assent from the Governor-General on 19 April[15] and took effect on 19 August 2013.[16]

Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill – Third Reading[17]
Party Votes for Votes against
National (59)
Labour (34)
Green (14)
NZ First (7)
Māori (3)
Mana (1)
ACT (1)
United Future (1)
Independent (1)
Total 77 44

Public opinion

Opinion polls

Date Conducted by Sample size In favour Neutral Against Undecided Margin of Error
September 2004[18] Herald-DigiPoll 750 40% 54%
6–9 July 2011[19] Research New Zealand 500 60% 34% 4% ±4.6%
26–30 May 2012[20] ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll 1005 63% 31% 5% ±3.1%
18–28 June 2012[21][22] Herald-DigiPoll 750 53.5% 40.5% 6% ±3.6%
11–17 September 2012[23] Research New Zealand 500 49% 15% 32% ±4.7%
December 2012[22] Herald-DigiPoll 500 59% 38% 3% ±4.4%
13–19 December 2012[24] Key Research 1000 53.9% 38.1% 8% ±3.1%
11–17 March 2013[25] Herald-DigiPoll 750 49.6% 48% 2.4% ±3.6%

Public campaigns

Pride Parade in Auckland in February 2013

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 Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith, as well as Olympian Danyon Loader.[29] 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.[30]

Public opposition to same-sex marriage has come from the New Zealand Beehive and in Auckland and Wellington against the enactment of marriage equality [35] 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".[36]

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.[37][38]

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.[39] At the New Zealand general election, 2014, the Conservative Party failed to enter Parliament because it polled below New Zealand's Mixed Member Proportional electoral system's five percent threshold for party list-only representation.[40] No other New Zealand political party has shown any inclination to revisit the issue; however, Family First continues to operate its "Protect Marriage" website.[41]

Marriage statistics

In the year after 19 August 2013 (when the law became operational), 926 same-sex marriages were registered in New Zealand, of which 520 were between female couples and 406 were between male couples. 532 marriages (57.5%) were between New Zealand citizens, and 237 marriages (25.6%) were between Australian citizens.[42][43]

In the year to 30 September 2014, 3.9% of marriages registered in New Zealand were same-sex. 13.6% of marriages between overseas couples were same-sex marriages, compared to 2.5% of marriages between New Zealanders.[44] The total number of same-sex marriages registered in New Zealand in 2014 was 486, compared to 19,639 opposite-sex marriages. The number of civil unions registered in 2014 fell dramatically, with 19 civil unions of same-sex couples being registered, as opposed to 121 in 2013.[45]

See also


  1. ^ "Section 2: Interpretation -- Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995". Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 27 August 2013. New Zealand includes the Ross Dependency. 
  2. ^ "Quilter v. Attorney-General [1998] 1 NZLR 523" (PDF). New Zealand Court of Appeal. 17 December 1997. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  3. ^ "Communication No 902/1999 : New Zealand. 2002-07-30". United Nations Human Rights Committee. 17 July 2002. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Act discriminatory, but no amendment
  5. ^ Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill
  6. ^ "Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill – First Reading". 7 December 2005. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Hartevelt, John; Levy, Dayna (14 May 2012). MP drafting gay marriage bill "MP drafting gay marriage bill" . Fairfax media (via Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill – Proposed Members' Bills – Legislation". New Zealand Parliament. 30 May 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Shuttleworth, Kate; Young, Audrey (29 August 2012). "Marriage bill passes first reading". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Watkins, Tracy (14 March 2013). "Passions fly as MPs vote on gay marriage". Fairfax Media (via Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  11. ^ NZ legalises same-sex marriage
  12. ^ Gay marriage bill passed
  13. ^ "New Zealand parliament breaks into song after legalising gay marriage". The Guardian. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "77 Politicians Commit Act of 'Cultural Vandalism', Media Release 12 April 2013". Family First NZ. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "August 19 for first gay weddings". 3 News NZ. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  16. ^ Wade, Amelia; Theunissen, Matthew; Tapaleao, Vaimoana (19 August 2013). "Same-sex couples celebrate wedded bliss". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Harkanwal Singh; Andy Ball (17 April 2013). "Marriage equality bill - How MPs voted". Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  18. ^ "Civil Union Bill: What the readers say". New Zealand Herald. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  19. ^ "RNZ Media Release: Same Sex Marriages" (PDF). Research New Zealand. 12 July 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  20. ^ "Views on whether same-sex couples should be able to marry" (PDF). Colmar Brunton. May 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "Support grows for gay adoption". New Zealand Herald. 30 June 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Generations divided over gay marriage". New Zealand Herald. 27 December 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  23. ^ "RNZ Media Release: Same Sex Marriages, Civil Union and Adoption" (PDF). Research New Zealand. 21 September 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  24. ^ "Polls: Gay marriage, right to die get the tick". New Zealand Herald. 6 January 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  25. ^ "Shock poll over gay marriage bill". New Zealand Herald. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  26. ^ Legalise Love' campaign formally launched"'". GayNZ. 22 August 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  27. ^ "Pro-gay marriage protest hits Parliament". 3 News. 20 October 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  28. ^ Amelia Romanos and Sharon Lundy (20 October 2011). "Calls for gay marriage to be on election agenda". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "'"Marriage equality 'about love. 3 News NZ. 6 December 2012. 
  30. ^ Chapman, Kate (23 November 2012). "'"Gay marriage 'not forced on churches. Fairfax NZ News. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  31. ^ Davison, Issac (28 July 2012). "Gay marriage opponents gear up to fight Wall's bill". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  32. ^ "Anti-gay marriage petition launched". 3 News. 29 July 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  33. ^ "'"Anti gay marriage website crashes after 'attack. Television New Zealand. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  34. ^ Davison, Isaac; Quilliam, Rebecca (28 August 2012). "50,000 sign against gay marriage". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  35. ^ New Zealanders for Marriage:
  36. ^ King, Caroline (16 April 2013). "Free Moa gig to celebrate same-sex marriage".  
  37. ^ "Youth parties sign marriage pledge". 3 News NZ. 11 March 2013. 
  38. ^ "Youth boost for gay marriage". 11 March 2013. 
  39. ^ "Gay marriage 'a failure of democracy' - Craig". 3 News NZ. 18 April 2013. 
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ "926 same sex marriages since law change". Department of Internal Affairs New Zealand. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  43. ^ One year on: One third of NZ gay marriages are of Aussie couples
  44. ^ "Civil Unions and Marriages: September 2014 quarter (provisional) – tables". Statistics New Zealand. 5 November 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014. 
  45. ^ "Same-sex couples opt for marriage over civil union". Statistics New Zealand & Scoop Independent News. 5 May 2015. 

External links

  • Marriage Equality New Zealand
  • Protect Marriage
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