New Zealand’s Maori child advocacy organisation Ririki has said they are in favour of MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill.

The bill, which would legalise equal marriage, passed its first reading today with a majority in parliament in support of the change.

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

It will remain with the select committee for a period of around six months, after which a decision will be made on whether or not it is passed.

Executive Director of Ririki, Anton Blank, said: “This is an important step.”

He added: “Many Maori children are now raised by gay couples and singles. Sanctioning marriage [equality] sends an important signal to our tamariki and whanau (extended family).

“Being gay is not an alternative lifestyle, it is normal and gay Maori should have the same rights as anyone else.

“The Civil Union Act was a step in the right direction, but because it does not have the same legal status as marriage, it positions gay Maori as other. When we have total equality, our integration into whanau will be complete.”

He added that as research shows that LGBT teenagers have higher rates of depression and suicide, it was essential to promote the idea that homosexuality and LGBT relationships were equally as valid as straight ones.

Mr Blank concluded: “We are thrilled to see a majority of Maori politicians supporting this bill. We support Louisa as she champions this bill.

“[Ms Wall] has been an important ally of Ririki and has supported our advocacy on behalf of Maori children.”