New Zealand has become the 13th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, 77 MPs voted in favour of the same-sex marriage bill in its final reading while 44 voted against. They were allowed to vote on the basis of their personal views and not on party lines.

“In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal ヨ it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” said MP Louisa Wall, who sponsored the bill. “Nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill.”

Hundreds of activists watched the vote from the public gallery in parliament and burst into song and cheered as the law was passed.

The country has also become the first nation in the Asia-Pacific region to give its gay and lesbian citizens the right to marry.

LGBT activists in nearby Australia welcomed the news and predicted that it will have an impact on their own marriage equality campaign.

“The majority of Australians who support marriage equality will be happy for New Zealand but deeply embarrassed their own country is lagging so far behind,” said Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Rodney Croome.

“This will be a game changer in Australia because of the close links between our two countries.

“New Zealand shows how reform can be achieved when national leaders put politics aside and work together, unlike Australia’s leaders who are still playing politics with marriage equality,” said Croome.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.

Uruguay’s president is expected to sign a same-sex marriage bill passed by his country’s parliament soon.

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