The majority of Parliament has backed a bill to ban "monstrous" conversion therapy, with many MPs sharing emotional, personal anecdotes.
Only the National Party opposed the bill at its first reading in the House today, going against the wishes of its youth wing, saying it supported the "intention" but wanted an exemption in place to prevent parents from being criminalised.
MPs on Thursday debated the law which would criminalise treatment which aims to change people's sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time.
Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said she was "very proud to be a member of New Zealand's Rainbow community" and "very proud" to support the bill.
"All our young people should grow up with a sense of pride in themselves.
"Conversion therapy is monstrous. It is not therapy; it is hate."
The bill creates two new criminal offences for either the most serious cases of harm or where there is heightened risk of harm. The bill also creates a pathway for civil redress.
Under the bill, it will be an offence to perform conversion practices on a child or young person aged under 18, or on someone with impaired decision-making capacity. Such offences would be subject to up to three years imprisonment.
It would also be an offence to perform conversion practices on anyone – irrespective of age – where the practices have caused serious harm, and would carry up to five years imprisonment.
National Party justice spokesman Simon Bridges said the party supported the "core intention".
"People should be free to be who they want to be and to love who they want to love," he said.
But there was one "sticking point", that "good parenting will be criminalised", he said.
"National believes there must be an exemption for parents."
They were particularly concerned around gender identity and the use of puberty blockers.
According to the Ministry of Health, puberty blockers, also known as hormone blockers, are medication that halt unwanted physical changes that don't match someone's gender identity.
They are a "safe and fully reversible medicine that may be used from early puberty through to later adolescence to help ease distress and allow time to fully explore gender health options".
The bill itself does not mention parents or any exemptions, and a Ministry of Justice assessment of the proposed legislation said a family would also be captured if they met the definition of conversion practices.
The Act Party supported the bill and condemned conversion therapy, but justice spokeswoman Nicole McKee said they would be advocating at select committee for an amendment to protect parents from being prosecuted.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said "everyone in this House has a story about someone that they know or love who has had a difficult time in coming out".
"I certainly have one of those, and my friend—who I'm not going to go into too much detail about—came out quite late in his life, and I cannot imagine some of the difficulties that people like him and others have gone through to be who they are."
Conversion therapy was wrong, had no evidence and was harmful, he said.
"The kinds of conversion practices that we've seen historically and we've heard from engagement with the community have been at the extreme end, the likes of electroconvulsive therapy.
"Now they more commonly include the likes of practices claiming to be counselling or talk therapy and some faith-based practices involving prayer, fasting, and exorcism.
"That harm has manifested itself in mental health issues; relationship issues; in some cases, long-term mental health issues; and in some unfortunate cases, suicide attempts and suicide itself."
On the subject of criminalising parents, Faafoi said that was not the intention of the bill.
"It is to prevent harm and to make sure we are encouraging those respectful and open discussions about people's sexual orientation and their gender identity."
Harm or serious harm had to be determined, followed by police action and then consent of the Attorney-General to take a prosecution, Faafoi said.
"We have deliberately designed this piece of legislation to make sure that it is only the serious cases that will ever make their way to a courtroom."
In 2018, after 20,000 people signed two petitions calling for the ban, Labour MP Marja Lubeck entered a bill in the members' ballot seeking to prohibit the practice.
Following years of advocacy, by groups such as Ending Conversion Therapy, Labour had campaigned on banning the practice and make it a criminal offence to advertise, offer or perform it, ahead of last year's election.
Activist groups reignited the conversation in February, and Green Party MP rainbow spokeswoman Elizabeth Kerekere launched a petition in February accumulating 157,764 signatures in a matter of days.
Speaking on Thursday, Kerekere said that petition was "the largest verified petition ever held in this country".
She spoke to the impacts of colonisation, and how the original missionaries introduced the ideas opposing takatāpui, which can mean queerness and/or gender fluidity, and how that had continued through to today.
"People who have had this happen to them deserve some justice."
Now the bill has passed its first reading it will go to select committee for public submissions.
After that it will come back to Parliament for a second reading, before going to another committee, a third reading and Royal Assent before becoming law.