The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, has passed its first reading with a majority in parliament in support of the change.

The bill, sponsored by MP Louisa Wall, will progress onto the select committee stage, after passing with a majority of 80 votes to 40.

A select committee will review the bill over a period of around six months, after which it will make a decision on whether or not to recommend it be passed.

Many MPs have pledged their support to the first reading only, and their ongoing support depended on the debate at the select committee.

Earlier, Labour MP Louisa Wall made a late appeal to opposing and undecided MPs, saying the present law discriminated against same-sex and transgender couples.

Ms Wall said: “[A marriage licence] is the only licence you can’t get if you’re homosexual in New Zealand. I feel it’s wrong and we need to make sure that we live in a just and equal society.”

The bill, not without opposition, saw three members of Wall’s own caucus, remain staunch in opposition to it. Ross Robertson, Su’a William Sio and Damien O’Connor all pledged to vote “no”. The former two met with Family First, a conservative lobby group, and were presented with a 48,000 strong petition to scrap the bill.

On the morning of the vote, Wellington city saw a thousand people march on parliament in support of equal marriage rights. John Habgood of LegaliseLove, one of the march organisers said: ”It’s not something that I think should be controversial. It’s something to get behind … It’s a huge excitement.”