New Zealand on Wednesday (April 17) became the first country in the Asia Pacific region to legalise same sex marriages after its parliament voted overwhelmingly to extend gay and lesbian couples the right to tie the knot.

Seventy-seven of 121 members of parliament voted in favour of amending the current 1955 Marriage Act to allow same sex couples to marry.

Cheers and applause erupted in the parliamentary public gallery when the vote count was announced.

New Zealand becomes the 13th country to legalise same-sex marriages, after Uruguay passed its own law last week. Australia last year rejected a similar proposal.

The law makes it clear that clergy can decline to preside in gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs.

The law to allow same-sex marriages comes after New Zealand gave same-sex relationships partial legal recognition in 2005 with the establishment of civil unions.

Presented by Adam Justice