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New Zealand passes first stage of gay marriage law

BY NICK PERRY, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly cast a first vote in favor of a gay marriage bill that was given impetus by President Barack Obama's public support of the issue.

The 80 to 40 vote in front of a packed and cheering public gallery was the first of three votes Parliament must hold before the bill can become law, a process that typically takes several months and allows the public to weigh in. Only a simple majority was needed to ensure a second vote, and the margin is a strong indication that the bill will be passed.

Should New Zealand pass the measure into law, it would become the 12th country since 2001 to recognize same-sex marriage. Some states in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not.

Polls indicate about two-thirds of New Zealanders support gay marriage. It also has the support of most of the country's political leaders.

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