POLITICS

Hundreds celebrate at New Zealand's Parliament as lawmakers approve gay-marriage bill

04/17/2013 05:56 EDT | Updated 06/17/2013 05:12 EDT
WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Hundreds of jubilant gay-rights advocates celebrated at New Zealand's Parliament as the country become the thirteenth in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 Wednesday night in favour of the gay-marriage bill.

People watching from the public gallery immediately broke into song after the result was announced, singing a New Zealand anthem in the indigenous Maori language.

Leaders of most political parties encouraged lawmakers to vote as their consciences dictated rather than along party lines.

Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a law last week that President Jose Mujica is expected to sign.