New Zealand prime minister John Key (pictured) has announced that he will to vote in favour of Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill, set to be debated in the country’s Parliament in the coming weeks.

Key had previously stated he was not opposed to same-sex marriage, but added it wasn’t a priority for his government.

“My view has been that if two gay people want to get married then I can’t see why it would undermine my marriage,” Key told RadioLive NZ this week.

“There will be plenty of people in our caucus who will be deeply opposed – particularly the very religious ones – and I can understand that.”

Last week, Wall’s bill on same-sex marriage was drawn from the Parliament’s members’ bill ballot.

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, which would allow all New Zealanders to marry regardless of their sexual orientation.

Australian marriage equality advocates believe it’s likely New Zealand will achieve marriage equality before Australia now that the conservative prime minister has joined his Labour counterpart, David Shearer, in declaring his full support for reform.

“Many Australians will be deeply disappointed if we fall behind New Zealand on this issue, not least those small businesses associated with the wedding industry that will lose out when gay Australians start flying across the Tasman to be married,” Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said

“John Key and David Shearer are sending a message directly to Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard – ‘join us on the right side of history’.”

A New Zealand Herald survey of MPs found 53 of them planned to support the bill or were leaning towards supporting it, with dozens undecided. It needs 61 votes to pass.

Same-sex couples in New Zealand are currently able to enter into a civil union which offers the same legal protections as a marriage.

A draft of the proposed New Zealand bill can be viewed here.

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