It’s official. New Zealand is the 13th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage and the first in the Asia-Pacific region. Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favor of the gay-marriage bill on its third and final reading. When the result was announced, people watching from the public gallery and some lawmakers immediately broke into song, singing a New Zealand anthem, “Pokarekare Ana” in the indigenous Maori language.

Since 2005, New Zealand has allowed civil unions, which gave many legal rights to gay couples. The new law will allow them to jointly adopt children for the first time and also allow their marriages to be recognized in other countries. The law will take effect in late August.

With New Zealand now allowing gay marriage, it puts pressure on nearby countries to follow suit. In Australia, there has been little political momentum at the federal level. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage. Since New Zealand is only a three hour plane ride away, many Aussie couples tired of waiting for the government to act, will most likely travel there. This will definitely spark a tourism boom.

Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a law last week that President Jose Mujica is expected to sign.

Congrats to all our Kiwi readers. I traveled to Auckland last year and really enjoyed it. My only regret was not traveling to the beautiful countryside. If you haven’t been to New Zealand, I highly recommend it.