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Same-sex couples tie knot in NZ, first Asia-Pacific nation to legalise gay marriage

A box with rose petals holders during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in t
A box with rose petals holders during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage. -- PHOTO: AFP
Jess Ives from the Bay of Islands arrives at the museum and is met by her Dad before during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand
Jess Ives from the Bay of Islands arrives at the museum and is met by her Dad before during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage. -- PHOTO: AFP
Richard Rawstorn (second right) with Richard Andrew (right) from Christchurch and Jess Ives (second left) and Rachel Briscoe (left) from the Bay of Islands celebrate during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Aug 19, 2013.
Richard Rawstorn (second right) with Richard Andrew (right) from Christchurch and Jess Ives (second left) and Rachel Briscoe (left) from the Bay of Islands celebrate during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage. -- PHOTO: AFP
Richard Rawstorn (left) with Richard Andrew from Christchurch celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealan
Richard Rawstorn (left) with Richard Andrew from Christchurch celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage. -- PHOTO: AFP
Jess Ives (right) and Rachel Briscoe (left) from the Bay of Islands celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New
Jess Ives (right) and Rachel Briscoe (left) from the Bay of Islands celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage. -- PHOTO: AFP
Richard Rawstorn (left) with Richard Andrew (second left) from Christchurch and Jess Ives (right) and Rachel Briscoe (second right) from the Bay of Islands celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on
Richard Rawstorn (left) with Richard Andrew (second left) from Christchurch and Jess Ives (right) and Rachel Briscoe (second right) from the Bay of Islands celebrate being married during the first same sex marriage at the Rotorua Museum in Rotorua on Monday, Aug 19, 2013. More than 30 same-sex couples will say "I do" on Monday when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and only the 14th in the world to legalise gay marriage. -- PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (AFP) - Dozens of same-sex couples said "I do" on Monday as New Zealand became the first Asia-Pacific country, and only the 14th in the world, to legalise gay marriage.

Vows were exchanged in venues ranging from an airliner cruising at 30,000 feet (9,150 metres) to a historic bath house as gay men and women took advantage of the law change.

The Campaign For Marriage Equality said it ended an historical injustice and meant the love of all people was recognised as equal in the eyes of the law.

"A massive congratulations to the happy couples tying the knot today. Marriage equality has finally arrived in New Zealand," spokesman Conrad Reyners said.

The amendment to the Marriage Act was passed by parliament in April but did not come into effect until Monday.

Two radio stations competed to host the first same-sex wedding, with the ceremonies broadcast live during their breakfast programmes.

In reality, the nuptials took place around the same time, at 8.30am on Monday (4.30am Singapore time), after the government offices that issue marriage licences had opened.

Reverend Matt Tittle from Auckland's Unitarian Church married one of the couples, Tash Vitali, 37, and Mel Ray, 29.

"It's history in the making," he said. "Hopefully it will help other countries to do the same and help New Zealanders to realise that everyone has worth and dignity no matter who they love."

Air New Zealand staged a special flight from Auckland to Queenstown where Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau tied the knot in the air after 14 years together, with American actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson from the hit comedy "Modern Family" in attendance.

"To be married at 30,000 feet beneath strings of fairy lights with our children, friends and family as witnesses makes an already memorable day that much more special," Bendall said.

"It was surreal to have Jesse play a part in the ceremony too."

However, conservative lobby group Family First said changing the Marriage Act was "an arrogant act of cultural vandalism" that politicians had pushed through without a public mandate.

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

The Anglican Church has also asked its ministers to refrain from conducting same-sex weddings pending a report to its general synod next year.

New Zealand decriminalised homosexuality in 1986 and has allowed same-sex civil unions since 2005.