Same-sex marriage close to approval in New Zealand
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Same-sex marriage close to approval in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand lawmakers for a second time have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill allowing same-sex marriage, virtually assuring its passage into law in the coming weeks.

Lawmakers supported the bill 77 to 44 Wednesday in the second of three votes that must be taken before a bill can become law. The third vote is likely to be little more than a formality.

More than 200 people crammed into the Parliament’s public gallery to watch lawmakers debate the bill before they voted at about 10:15 p.m. The mostly young crowd clapped and cheered for lawmakers who spoke in support of the bill while sitting in silence for many who spoke in opposition.

New Zealand already has same-sex civil union laws that confer many legal rights to gay couples.