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Gay marriage becomes a reality

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New Zealand News | Monday August 19 2013 5:01

Gay marriage becomes a reality

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UPDATED 2.24PM - After years in the waiting, one same-sex couple has successfully tied the knot thousands of feet above ground.

VIDEO: See Natasha Vitali and Melissa Ray tie the knot

On a beautifully clear day high above the snow-capped Southern Alps Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau exchanged vows and were officially married.

Those onboard the Air New Zealand plane erupted into applause and it was followed by a sudden choir performance of the song Pokarekare Ana.

The reception is now underway at an airport hanger, compete with dance floor for the newlyweds.

Ms Bendall says the commitment between them is still the same as before, but the difference is, now they are equal. 

"To make the choice to marry who you love, and not have people tell you that you can't is really, really important. 

"It's a basic human right, and it means so much to be able to say that we're married."

PHOTOS: NZ's first same-sex weddings

Busy day as couples tie the knot

It's been a big I-do for dozens of same sex couples across New Zealand this morning.

From today it's legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married.

It all began this morning when Tash Vitali and Melissa Ray were one of the very first to tie the knot as part of the ZM radio competition.

It's also been a busy morning for registry offices, with some even opening early to cope with demand.

There's plenty of New Zealanders who have been quick off the mark.

Births, Deaths and Marriages registrar general, Jeff Montgomery, says it's been a very busy time.

"We had a significant number of couples come into our offices on Friday and they'll be coming in today to pick up their licenses. We know there's a number of weddings happening today, but also throughout the week."

Mr Montgomery is also expecting plenty of interest from overseas couples looking to tie the knot in New Zealand.

"And we expect there'll be a considerable amount of interest from same-sex couples who will come to New Zealand probably during the summer for their wedding."

Overseas interest

Lord of the Rings, Rotorua, and Queenstown and now - same-sex marriage to draw visitors to New Zealand.

Tourism New Zealand's marketing the country as a place gay couples can tie the knot, by sponsoring the first gay Australian couple to get married here, today.

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks says we have some of the world's finest food producers, winemakers and craft beer brands, so we're sure to put on a good party.

"We're working with Tourism New Zealand as other regions will as well to make sure that all potential international visitors know what they can do here and now that includes I think a same-sex wedding."

He says today's weddings will be the first of many, where couples come to New Zealand from countries that don't recognise same-sex marriage.

"Lots of people come to New Zealand and lots of people come to Wellington from other countries to get married. The ball already is rolling. It's just fantastic we're able to welcome a whole set of people who previously we couldn't."

Bittersweet for Aussie couples

Australian couples are among the first to take advantage of the new same-sex marriage law here in New Zealand with some flying across to get wed today.

But Rodney Croome from Australian Marriage Equality says there will be some sadness for Aussie couples once they return.

"When they return to Australia their solemn vows of life-long commitment will mean nothing in Australian law.

"The fact that New Zealand has moved ahead on marriage equality really puts increased pressure on our politicians in Australia here, to do the same."

The first

History's been made this morning.

One of the first same-sex couples to be married in New Zealand has just tied the knot at the Unitarian Church in Ponsonby.

They'll spend their honeymoon in Fiji, thanks to Tourism Fiji.

31 same sex couples have submitted notices of intended marriage.

Special day for Wall

It's a very special day for the architect of the same sex marriage bill, Louisa Wall.

The MP hopes New Zealand's move will have repercussions elsewhere.

"Well I think it's given particular momentum to Australia and obviously it is and has become quite a battleground for both Rudd and Abbott given they've got polarised views about marriage equality."

Louisa Wall says getting this bill through has been very rewarding.

MORE: Louisa Wall on the Mike Hosking Breakfast

Family First to continue opposition

Amidst all this rainbow flavoured marriage joy today, Family First is determined to remain staunchly against the change.

National director Bob McCoskrie says politicians have committed an arrogant act of cultural vandalism with no clear public mandate.

"They'll have celebrations. They're welcome to use the definition conceived by political correctness but it won't change the actual meaning or purpose that's stood the test of time."

Mr McCoskrie says for millions and millions of people worldwide, marriage is a specific culturally and historically bound institution.

Photo: Instagram / ZMOnline

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