In 2004 Key, the MP for the conservative and largely rural Helensville electorate, voted against the Civil Unions Bill which nonetheless was passed, enabling same-sex couples to legally formalise their relationship.
Soon after US President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage Key was questioned on the matter and appeared to change his stance,saying he was not personally opposed to marriage equality. This was seen by political commentators as a helpful signal to other National MPs that it was relatively safe to vote for such legislation. It was passed by with a healthy majority in Parliament.
Since becoming PM in 2008 Key has been a regular, though sometimes controversial, attendee at Auckland's Big Gay Out, shaking hands and speaking from the stage of his party's commitment to glbti equality.
It is likely that deputy PM Bill English will step up to become the new Prime minister and to lead the National party into next year's general election. English, a conservative Catholic, has consistently voted against equal rights against gays and in 2007 threatened GayNZ.com with legal reaction when the site's news service revealed that, with his apparent knowledge, his son had been posting anti-gay abuse on the internet.