Same sex marriage allowed from tomorrow

Excitement is building in the gay and lesbian community as legislation allowing same sex marriage comes into effect tomorrow.

One of the first couples to take advantage of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, which passed into law in April, are Tash Vitali and Melissa Ray who will wed at 8am in the Unitarian Church in Auckland, as part of a ZM radio station competition.

Thirty-one same sex couples from Auckland, Manukau, Wellington, Christchurch and Rotorua have told Births, Deaths and Marriages they intend to get married tomorrow.

The legislation was a "symbolic" step towards equality for all LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) people, Rainbow Wellington secretary Tony Reed said.

"The act is actually removing a discrimination that was there ... before we couldn't marry, but now we can."

While Mr Reed did not have any ceremonies lined up to go to, he said John Joliff and Des Smith, the first couple to register for a civil union after the law was changed in 2005, were planning to convert their union to a marriage.

There had been a lot of interest from people overseas downloading Internal Affairs' marriage certificates, Mr Reed said.

"Including apparently from Moscow, and you certainly can't get married there at the moment."

Others planning to tie the knot tomorrow are Richard Rawstorn and Richard Andrew from Christchurch, and Jess Ives and Rachel Briscoe from the Bay of Islands who will be married together on The Edge Breakfast show.

Ms Briscoe said she was "excited and nervous" about her big day.

"With family from the UK attending and all that media, it will be high stress, but fun."

Christchurch celebrant Julie Lassen said there was no shortage of celebrants - at least 400 in New Zealand were happy to officiate at same-sex weddings.

But some churches were split between parishes on the issue, and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference was among many groups opposed to the change.

Same-sex marriage opponent and national director of lobby group Family First NZ, Bob McCoskrie, said in passing the bill into law, politicians had committed an "arrogant act of cultural vandalism with no clear public mandate".

"Marriage will always maintain its cultural, natural and historical definition of the lifetime commitment of one man one woman.

"Social engineers including politicians and activists are expecting marriage supporters to drop their deeply held convictions because of the misguided decisions of politicians," Mr McCoskrie said.

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