Pacific leaders in New Zealand have announced a series of public meetings on a marriage equality bill set to come before Parliament, in an attempt to avert conflict within Pacific churches.

Radio New Zealand News reports that Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesman, Su’a William Sio (pictured), asked south Auckland MP Louisa Wall to withdraw her gay marriage bill because it is proving divisive in Pacific communities.

Wall’s bill was drawn from the members’ bill ballot in July and, if passed, would allow all New Zealanders to marry regardless of their sexual orientation.

The bill will now be debated on a first reading and there will be a conscience vote that decides whether it will go any further.

New Zealand prime minister John Key has stated he will support the bill.

The first of the public meetings was held on Monday night. Organiser Peseta Betty Sio of the Pacific Islands Safety and Violence Prevention Project, said there are no clear indications of whether Pacific communities will or won’t support the bill and that the intention of the meetings is to get Pacific communities discussing what marriage equality really means and for the churches to explain why they are against it.

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

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