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Love is in the air as same-sex couples tie the knot

Published: 3:02PM Monday August 19, 2013 Source: ONE News

Thirty-one couples can tonight officially call each other wife and wife, or husband and husband.

New Zealand's first gay weddings took place this morning after the nation became the first in the Asia-Pacific region and the 14th in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

Labour MP Louisa Wall's Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed in April.

Today, Ms Wall witnessed couple Natasha Vitali and former Football Ferns player, Melissa Ray, say "I do".

"It is an amazing day to be here to celebrate with Tash and Mel and their families, their love for one another and the commitment they have to one another and the institution of marriage," Ms Wall said.

"All the theory of Parliament now comes to fruition today and we can put in practise the fact that any two people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity can get a marriage license and so that's what we are going to be celebrating today."

To read more about the first gay weddings click here.

It was not just Kiwis getting hitched, with an Australian couple publically pledging their love in Wellington after winning an all-expenses paid wedding though Tourism New Zealand.

Trent Kandler and Paul McCarthy, wearing matching three-piece suits and pink ties, marched down the aisle at Te Papa today.

"To be able to be recognised legally as not only married but equal, it's important," Mr McCarthy said.

Mr McCarthy also said that he knew of other couples looking to travel to New Zealand to marry, even though their unions would not be recognised back home.

In Australia, opinion polls show widespread support for gay marriage but recent attempts to change the law have stalled.

Tourism New Zealand says it has seen a rise in the number of Australians interested in visiting since the law was passed.

"We get about 40,000 couples a year come here for their honeymoon. They spend $160 million in New Zealand, these are overseas couples, so if we can grow that, it's great for New Zealand," said chief executive Kevin Bowler.

The Department of Internal Affairs said that roughly 1000 marriage applications were downloaded in the week since same-sex applications became available, around three times the average number.

Around 170 were from overseas, mainly from Australia but also from Hong Kong, Russia and the United States.

'A sad day'

However, fierce opposition remains to the law, with Conservative Party leader Colin Craig deeming it a "sad day" for the country.

"I think it's a sad day for us as a nation because we are seeing a legislative and cultural change that New Zealanders didn't support," Mr Craig told ONE News.

"It's not the first time I've seen the Government make a decision against the wishes of the people, I think that's the most serious issue here," he said.

Most Christian churches remain divided on whether or not same-sex marriage ceremonies should be conducted.

Roman Catholics are opposed outright, while Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists are split.

The Presbyterian Church, the country's third largest church, is encouraging its ministers to consider a temporary ban on gay marriages to preserve the church's "peace and unity".

Religion advocate Peter Lineham said that churches still feel uneasy about the law.

"The church has kind of a feeling of monopoly on marriage unjustifiably, so you can understand why they're a bit defensive about it," he said.

Lobby group, Family First New Zealand, insists that the definition of marriage will not change, and the Bill is merely a definition conceived by politicians.

"Despite their grandiose view, the politicians never had the authority to redefine marriage - and their efforts only mask reality," said Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First.