Same-sex marriage inched another step closer late last night when MPs backed it overwhelmingly at the second hurdle, with only a handful of previous supporters turning against it.
Labour MP Louisa Wall's bill passed its second reading 77-44, a drop in support of three votes from the first reading.
More than 200 people packed the public gallery to hear the heated debate. As the vote was announced, cheers erupted both from the public seating area and the debating chamber, and a number of MPs embraced.
Cabinet ministers Gerry Brownlee, Jonathan Coleman and Murray McCully and National MP Ian McKelvie voted against after initially supporting the legislation.
A bid by NZ First leader Winston Peters to delay the law change until a referendum could be held at the 2014 general election was voted down 83-33.
New MPs Aaron Gilmore, who replaced Speaker Lockwood Smith, and Labour's Carol Beaumont, who replaced Charles Chauvel, both backed the legislation.
Ms Wall told Parliament that the discussion on her bill had highlighted the discrimination felt by gay communities in New Zealand.
"The agony and hardship that so many who bravely made submissions have had to face is unreasonable. But what's totally unacceptable is the state perpetuating that agony and hardship by not issuing marriage licences to loving, consenting and eligible non-heterosexual couples."
She stressed the importance of freedom of religion in making the law change, but also made a plea to churches to consider the rights of the gay and transgender community "with love, compassion and reason".
National MP Tim Macindoe was the first to speak against the bill, arguing that although NZ was a secular society, he did not believe his Christian faith should be omitted from discussion of the issue.
Caucus colleague Chris Auchinvole spoke about the social shift occurring in NZ, with only 32 per cent of marriages taking place in a church.
Green MP Kevin Hague said the submissions on the bill revealed both tragedy and joy. "Some ... were hard to listen to. They shared with the committee their own stories of the damage that prejudice and discrimination had brought them: friends lost to suicide, their own self-harm, depression and isolation ..."
National MP Chester Borrows, who described himself as a conservative Christian, slammed the "abhorrent" way that some groups - including churches - had conducted themselves in the debate.
He opposed the bill because he did not believe that changing the definition of marriage helped achieve equality in long-term relationships.
The bill is likely to return to Parliament for the committee stage at the end of the month, when MPs will pick through it clause by clause.
It could be passed as soon as next month.
Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill
How they voted: 2nd reading
National: Amy Adams, Chris Auchinvole, Maggie Barry, Paula Bennett, Jackie Blue, Cam Calder, David Carter, Judith Collins, Jacqui Dean, Craig Foss, Aaron Gilmore (new MP), Paul Goldsmith, Jo Goodhew, Tim Groser, Tau Henare, Paul Hutchison, Nikki Kaye, Steven Joyce, John Key, Hekia Parata, Jami-Lee Ross, Scott Simpson, Chris Tremain, Nicky Wagner, Kate Wilkinson, Maurice Williamson.
Labour: Jacinda Ardern, Carol Beaumont (new MP), David Clark, Clayton Cosgrove, David Cunliffe, Clare Curran, Lianne Dalziel, Ruth Dyson, Kris Faafoi, Darien Fenton, Phil Goff, Chris Hipkins, Parekura Horomia, Raymond Huo (did not vote first reading), Shane Jones, Annette King, Iain Lees-Galloway, Andrew Little, Moana Mackey, Nanaia Mahuta, Trevor Mallard, Sue Moroney, David Parker, Rajen Prasad, Grant Robertson, David Shearer, Maryan Street, Rino Tirikatene, Phil Twyford, Louisa Wall, Megan Woods.
Greens: Steffan Browning, David Clendon, Catherine Delahunty, Julie-Anne Genter, Kennedy Graham, Kevin Hague, Gareth Hughes, Jan Logie, Mojo Mathers, Russel Norman, Denise Roche, Metiria Turei, Eugenie Sage, Holly Walker.
Maori Party: Pita Sharples, Te Ururoa Flavell, Tariana Turia
United Future: Peter Dunne
ACT: John Banks
Mana: Hone Harawira
National: Shane Ardern, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, David Bennett, Chester Borrows, Simon Bridges, Gerry Brownlee (changed vote), Jonathan Coleman (changed vote), Bill English, Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, John Hayes, Phil Heatley, Colin King, Melissa Lee, Sam Lotu-Iiga, Tim Macindoe, Todd McClay, Murray McCully (changed vote), Ian McKelvie (changed vote), Mark Mitchell, Alfred Ngaro, Simon O'Connor, Eric Roy, Tony Ryall, Mike Sabin, Katrina Shanks, Nick Smith, Lindsay Tisch, Anne Tolley, Louise Upston, Michael Woodhouse, Jian Yang, Jonathan Young.
Labour: Damien O'Connor, Ross Robertson, Su'a William Sio
NZ First: Asenati Lole-Taylor, Tracey Martin, Winston Peters, Richard Prosser, Barbara Stewart, Andrew Williams, Denis O'Rourke.
Independent: Brendan Horan
- With Newstalk ZB