WELLINGTON, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Lesbian and gay couples around New Zealand celebrated the country's first same-sex weddings on Monday.
Nine same sex couples had registry weddings on Monday, according to Registrar-General Births, Deaths and Marriages Jeff Montgomery, but others were married in churches and other venues, including two women married on an Air New Zealand flight from Queenstown to Auckland.
Montgomery expected the number of couples having registry weddings to increase next week as figures became available from across the country.
Another 31 marriage licenses would be issued on Tuesday in the country's main centers, he said in a statement.
And 977 marriage forms had been downloaded from the Department of Internal Affairs website this week, three times as many as normal, including 156 for couples applying from overseas in advance of arriving in New Zealand, he said.
The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act made New Zealand the first country in the Asia-Pacific region and the 13th in the world to allow same sex marriage when it was passed in April.
Labour Party Member of Parliament Louisa Wall, who sponsored the law change, said Monday was the day that same sex couples realized equal rights and citizenship with other New Zealanders.
"It makes me immensely proud to see New Zealand again leading the way with the continuation of our proud tradition of universal human rights for all people," Wall said in a statement.
She urged lesbian and gay communities, advocates of universal human rights, social justice, and politicians worldwide to champion global homosexual law reform.
"I hope the New Zealand experience will inspire others to eliminate inequality and discrimination where they see it and to fight for what is right, fair and just."