Parliament says I do

By Anna Ferrick, Sam Hurley

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For Hawke's Bay couple Renee Hickey and Jess Nielson, the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill means the possibility to not be seen as different to anyone else.

The couple have been together for two years after meeting through work and live together in Otane.

They are not currently engaged but one day hope to tie the knot.

The third reading of the Marriage Amendment Bill passed through Parliament last night by 77 votes to 44, legalising same-sex marriage in New Zealand. MPs held a conscience vote on the private member's bill, sponsored by gay Labour MP Louisa Wall. New Zealand has become the 13th country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in law and it will take effect in mid August.

Ms Nielson, 27, said the couple's immediate reaction following the vote was of joy and celebration.

"It's really cool, we are just really happy."

Ms Hickey, 30, said she feels the bill has been a long time coming.

"I feel like this is the way it should've always been, you should be able to choose who you love and who you want to marry.

"We'd have a pretty laid back wedding, Jess wants a beach wedding, no white dresses or anything. We're cruisers!"

Ms Hickey said the bill will help point out to the younger generation that it is okay to be gay.

"It means it's not a scary thing anymore, we're not any different to anyone else and now people will have to accept it."

Ms Hickey is the manager of the SPCA in Waipukurau and Ms Nielson is a veterinary nurse at Vet Services. Ms Neilson has a child from a previous relationship who stays with the couple half of the time.

The couple describe themselves as pretty laid back and say their wedding would be a bit "bare-foot Barry".

Both Hawke's Bay National MPs voted for the bill in Parliament last night.

Tukituki National MP Craig Foss was extremely pleased with the improvements the Bill proposed and welcomed it as a step forward in New Zealand human rights.

"I voted for the Bill all the way through," he said.

"For me its very simple: all New Zealanders and all people in Hawke's Bay should have the same rights as everyone else.

"When there are people I know that don't share the same rights as others, its just not right."

New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs and of Local Government Chris Tremain said he completely supported the Bill even though it seemed to have evenly split his Napier electorate.

"I've had a lot of people come through my electoral office and speak very strongly both for and against the Bill, while some aren't too concerned either way."

Mr Tremain said he voted not just on the Bill, but on the issue of equality for all New Zealanders.

"New Zealand has stood up proudly on these issues over the years, such as the right to vote for women.

"I think we will look back on the Bill in a few years and wonder what all the fuss was about," he said.

Former Labour MP Stuart Nash said the passing of the Bill was pleasing, but urged Parliament to not look past other issues that everyday New Zealanders face.

"Parliament should be focusing on the more important issues that will, in the end, help the good, hard working people of Napier."

Father Simon Story of Sacred Heart Church in Hastings said local priests will continue to stand behind the New Zealand Catholic Church's statement on the Bill.

The submission reads the Church believes: "The term marriage signifies a particular reality; that of a public, committed, permanent and loving relationship between one man and one woman, a relationship which has a natural orientation towards the procreation of new human life."

It also states the Church has long promoted marriage as a stable and loving environment for the nurture of family and children, and the consequent good of society.

"We are seeking to protect the current legal understanding of the nature of marriage as being a union between one man and one woman," the submission read.

- Additional reporting APNZ

- Hawkes Bay Today

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