Gay-rights advocates celebrated at New Zealand's Parliament Wednesday night as the country become the 13th in the world to legalize gay marriage.
People watching from the gallery immediately broke into song after lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favor and the result was announced, singing the New Zealand love song "Pokarekare Ana" in the indigenous Maori language, the Associated Press reports.
"For us, we can now feel equal to everyone else," said Tania Penafiel Bermudez, who plans to marry her partner, Sonja Fry. "This means we can feel safe and fair and right in calling each other wife and wife."
The bill's sponsor, Louisa Wall, told lawmakers the change was "our road toward healing."
"In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal — it's a declaration of love and commitment to a special person," she said. She added that "nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill."
New Zealand has permitted civil unions since 2005, but the new law will allow gay couples to jointly adopt children and will also allow their marriages to be recognized in other countries, the AP reports.
The law will take effect this August.
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