New Zealanders are one step closer to legalising same-sex civil unions this week after parliament approved two landmark bills for further discussion, The New Zealand Herald reported.

The Civil Union Bill will allow same-sex unions to be registered under the law and passed its first reading last Thursday by a vote of 66 to 50. It is estimated that 10,000 same-sex couples will be able to take advantage of the proposed law.

The Relationships (Statutory References) Bill will allow for neutral laws on relationships -“ whether civil unions, de facto or marriages. The bill will amend over 100 separate statutes and passed its first reading by 77 votes to 42 yesterday.

Both bills have now been referred to the country’s justice and electoral committee for public submissions.

Opponents of the bills have sent hate mail to New Zealand’s MPs, and even protested by bringing a goat to parliament. Six representatives of the Salvation Army protested with the animal claiming civil unions would lead to people marrying goats, reported.

The leader of the Christian political party Destiny New Zealand, Richard Lewis, said the organisation plans to rally outside against the bills on 23 August, The New Zealand Herald reported today. The group are considering adding the criminalising of homosexuality to their family-friendly policies.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said last week however that the new bills were conservative as government was not planning to amend the Marriage Act, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

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