Two hours before the debate even started, there was a long queue of people lined up in the rain wanting to be able to see this bill passed into law. There were so many people, that the Legislative Council Chamber had to be used as an over-flow public gallery. I’ve never seen a bill before where people would turn up two hours early just to get a seat in the gallery.
The debate started at 7.30 pm to a packed House and gallery. David Carter was in the chair. That was unusual as the Speaker normally only presides over question time and general debate. Also unusual was that the bench reserved for former MPs was full up.
Marilyn Waring was there, the National MP for Raglan and Waipa from 1975 to 1984. She was “outed” as a lesbian in 1976, when she was just 23. Former National List MP Katherine Rich was there. Katherine was one of just three National MPs to vote for civil unions. Georgina Beyer was there. Her election as MP for Wairarapa in 1999 showed that her constituents didn’t care about the fact she was trans-gender – just that they thought she was the best MP for their electorate. And Tim Barnett was there, who played a crucial role in getting civil unions introduced in a very close vote.
Also noticeable in the House was a few MPs wearing bridal style fascinators, which was a clever way to get around the no hat rule. Metiria Turei and Holly Walker were both wearing very bright ones, as was journalist Laura McQuillan in the gallery. A nice touch of class and colour.
The other noticeable thing was one of the dozen or so opponents in the gallery. She was in the far corner, and every time an MP started to speak in favour here eyes would close, she would slump forward and hold her hands up high above her head in a form of prayer. I was unable to work out if she was trying to bring down lightning strikes on those MPs, or praying for their souls to be saved.
The debate started with Louisa Wall. She said:
In our society the meaning of marriage is universal. It is a declaration of love and commitment to a special person. Law that allows all people to enjoy that state is the right thing to do. Law that prohibits people from enjoying that state is just wrong. Those who celebrate religious or cultural marriage are absolutely unaffected by this bill. That has never been part of the State’s marriage law and it never should be.
Maurice Williamson then gave a hilarious speech. The House and galleries were in non stop laughter and applause. I’ve embedded it above as a few extracts can’t do it justice.
I have had a reverend in my local electorate call and say that the gay onslaught will start the day after this bill is passed. We are really struggling to know what the gay onslaught will look like. We do not know whether it will come down the Pakuranga Highway as a series of troops, or whether it will be a gas that flows in over the electorate and blocks us all in. I also had a Catholic priest tell me that I was supporting an unnatural act. I found that quite interesting coming from someone who has taken an oath of celibacy for his whole life. … I have not done it, so I do not know what it is about.
I also had a letter telling me that I would burn in the fires of hell for eternity. That was a bad mistake, because I have got a degree in physics. I used the thermodynamic laws of physics. I put in my body weight and my humidity and so on. I assumed the furnace to be at 5,000 degrees. I will last for just on 2.1 seconds. It is hardly eternity.
But he pointed out most opposition was sincere:
I found some of the bullying tactics really evil. I gave up being scared of bullies when I was at primary school. However, a huge amount of the opposition was from moderates, from people who were concerned, who were seriously worried, about what this bill might do to the fabric of our society. I respect their concern. I respect their worry. They were worried about what it might to do to their families and so on. Let me repeat to them now that all we are doing with this bill is allowing two people who love each other to have that love recognised by way of marriage. That is all we are doing. We are not declaring nuclear war on a foreign State. We are not bringing a virus in that could wipe out our agricultural sector for ever. We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognised, and I cannot see what is wrong with that
Far from there being something wrong with that, there is something great about that.
Finally, can I say that one of the messages I had was that this bill was the cause of our drought—this bill was the cause of our drought. Well, if any of you follow my Twitter account, you will see that in the Pakuranga electorate this morning it was pouring with rain. We had the most enormous big gay rainbow across my electorate. It has to be a sign. It has to be a sign. If you are a believer, it is certainly a sign. Can I finish—for all those who are concerned about this—with a quote from the Bible. It is Deuteronomy. I thought Deuteronomy was a cat out of the musical Cats, but never mind. The quote is Deuteronomy 1:29: “Be ye not afraid.”
I loved his line about thinking Deuteronomy was a cat from Cats!
Jami-Lee Ross made a personal observation:
I want to briefly talk also about the question of children, because it is a common theme that some opponents have been raising. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that every child must have a mother and a father. I know that it is a touchy subject, but as someone who actually grew up without a mother and without a father, I think I am somewhat qualified to speak on the issue. A child does need both male and female influences in their life, but those influences do not necessarily have to come from their biological parents. What is most important is that a child is raised in a loving and caring environment. What is most important is that the people who are raising that child give them a home that is safe, warm, educating, and nurturing. If that environment just so happens to be a same-sex marriage, then that child is just as fortunate as every other loved and cared for child.
So absolutely correct.
Grant Robertson also spoke personally:
Well, in New Zealand in 1986 there was a 14-year-old young man sitting in Dunedin who read the newspaper about the law to decriminalise homosexuality, and he cut out of the newspaper the names of those who voted for and those who voted against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. And that gave him—me—hope that maybe his life would be all right. There were 49 people in favour of the law that day. To Annette King, Phil Goff, Trevor Mallard, and Peter Dunne, who are still here today, thank you for giving me that hope.
I’m going to a seperate post on the wider issue, its meaning, and the celebrations last night. But let me say that what Grant said about the power of hope law changes like 1986 and 2013 give to younger GLBT New Zealanders can not be over-stated.
Winston Peters have a bizarre speech where he accused Louisa Wall of not even telling her own party about her bill and sneaking it past the whips and the Labour caucus. it was unintentionally hilarious. You have half the Labour caucus shouting out he was wrong, and Winston insisting that he know what happened in their party more than they do, and that they were covering it up.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —I am coming on with the facts here—is for members’ bills to be taken to the Labour whip’s office for the Labour whip to lodge after the bill is approved by the Labour caucus. That is the process every party follows, and it has to be followed because the system will not operate without it. But Ms Wall did not. It is a fact. Make all the statements they like now, but the first the Labour leader’s office knew was seeing it on the list of bills lodged. That is a fact. So tell us why the Labour whip’s office was not told at caucus first, before the bill was lodged—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: It did go to caucus.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I am getting it from the best of authority that that is what happened—
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yeah, after the event. That is true—after the event.
Moana Mackey: We were there.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: So you were in the whip’s office? No, you were not, and that is a fact. My evidence is of somebody who was, and it suggests that the Labour Party was hijacked on this issue.
If you ever needed proof that Winston just makes shit up, this speech provided it. His conspiracy theories have no limits.
Peters also repeated his call for a referendum and cited how NZ First insisted on their superannuation policy in 1997 going to a referendum. However he was followed by Tau Henare who mauled him and all but called him a liar:
Hon TAU HENARE (National): I will be splitting my call with the Hon Nikki Kaye. I did have a speech prepared, but that speech shot it to bits. Here is the bona fides on the New Zealand First referendum of the 1990s. The National Party said no to a bill. That is why we went to a referendum, and when we went to a referendum, 82 percent of the country said: “No, Winston. We don’t believe in you any more.” That is what it said. It never went through caucus. It never went through caucus. And that speech that I heard tonight was the biggest shyster speech I have ever heard—the biggest shyster speech I have ever heard.
Tau is correct. It was National that insisted on the referendum. Winston did not want a referendum. And as Tau also pointed out Winston also never took things to caucus. He even expelled Brendan Horan without even discussing it with his caucus first.
Nikki Kaye gave a powerful speech:
There are so many stories that we have heard over the last 6 months of people desperate to marry, of young people taking their lives because they have never been accepted, and of people in relationships for 30 years desperate to have that properly recognised in law. This bill is not just about equality and freedom for people to choose whom they want to spend the rest of their life with. It is also fundamentally about human dignity, real acceptance, and good old-fashioned love. For people who are currently married, we have already heard that nothing will change. Weddings will still happen. They will still be expensive. There will still be honeymoons, cakes, and stag dos, dresses and rings, and the odd drunk uncle. But marriage is more than that. It is a huge commitment, and it is something so many young people want. Passing this bill actually means that young gay and lesbian New Zealanders can have the same dream that other young New Zealanders have.
Kevin Hague followed:
It is time. In one of the many messages that I have received on this Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, one man said “My partner and I have been together for 30 years. It would be great to celebrate our anniversary with a wedding.” I mentioned in the first reading that I have been together with my partner Ian, who is here tonight with my son, Thomas, for 28 years—now nearly 29 years. And I could not help but reflect on our journey during that time. When we got together our relationship was against the law. The message sent by the law could not have been clearer. We were outsiders. We did not belong. The debate over Fran Wilde’s bill was extremely toxic. A lot of people said a lot of very unpleasant things about us and, of course, predicted that the bill would spell the end of New Zealand society. I will be eternally grateful to Fran and her colleagues, to George Gair, for standing up for what was right. I remember travelling to Auckland’s North Shore to protest against one of our opponents, Pastor Richard Flynn, who called publicly for homosexuals like me to be put to death.
It still astonishes me that less than 30 years ago it was illegal to have a gay relationship.
Those famous words of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice come to mind: “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”. And I would add: “And if we are not equal before the law, are we not lesser beings?” So I come at the issue of marriage equality simply on the basis of equality before the law.
John Banks rose to speak in support. He was a strident campaigner against homosexual law reform in the 1980s. He said:
I am one of a handful of members who was here in the very early days of these debates. After three decades and 10 Parliaments, I have had time to reflect—to reflect on what I said and to reflect on what I did. If I knew then what I have since learnt, I would have acted differently.
Nice. and further:
I see this as a debate more about human rights, predicated on the basis that we are all entitled to live our lives to the fullest extent of human happiness, while respecting the rights and beliefs of others. I believe all New Zealanders should be free to pursue their own happiness. … When making this decision, I had to ask myself: “Will New Zealanders have more freedoms as a result of this bill? Yes. Will freedom of religion be preserved? Yes. Will anyone’s freedoms be taken away by this bill? No. Would the God that I believe in think any less of me for voting for this bill? No.” That is why I support this legislation.
Te Ururoa Flavell:
Can I thank my Treaty partner “Hone” Banks for allowing me to have his final 5 minutes. …
This is not the first time that Māori have encountered controversy around the concept of marriage. In 1888 the Supreme Court of New Zealand made a decision that has been described as “doubtful legally and deplorable socially”. That doubtful and deplorable decision was to reject the customary marriages that had existed mai rānō, and to assume that the marriage law of England took precedence. In fact, the colonial law from another land was considered of such importance that the children of Māori customary marriages were then described as “illegitimate”, yet so significant was the status of customary marriages amongst our people that they continued to be recognised for the purposes of succession to Māori land until 1951. So when opponents of this bill criticise a change to the definition of marriage as contravening our sacred traditions, I would have to say “Whose traditions are we talking about?”
Chester Borrows spoke sort of for and against:
I want to say that today I was pleased to get a text from my good friend Gerard Langford, who texted me and said “Mate, I know this is a big day and I know we see these things differently, but all the best for today.” I said “Thanks, Gerard, you are the gay friend I cite most often.” The fact is that my good friendship with Gerard and his partner, Rangi, as led me along a line that has got me to change my view in respect of gay things. I believe that people who love one another should be with one another and should commit to one another publicly, because I believe that relationships between two people who love one another should be strong, should be publicly committed, and will enable our community to be stronger.
I’ve known Gerard for a long time also. Up until that speech I didn’t know he was gay, which just shows that I have crap gaydar 🙂
When Chester said he had changed his view there was huge applause from the gallery as they thought this meant he was now voting for the bill. But not quite:
I will be voting against this bill because I think we should be having the larger debate, and that debate is about what marriage is and what marriage is not. I believe very strongly, for instance, that two people who are married, who are in a heterosexual relationship, should be allowed to be able to do that. I do not believe for one moment that two people who are of the same gender and who commit to one another in any way at all detracts from the 34-year marriage that my wife and I enjoy.
Jonathan Young also spoke respectfully against:
In this House, disagreement is the air we breathe, but it is how we disagree that is important, and by and large this debate has been calmer than many other debates in this House. Tonight I expect that this bill will pass despite my vote, which some will know has not supported its transition through the House thus far. For a long time now I have been very supportive of civil unions, for all the reasons that people are perhaps now applying to the marriage debate. I can empathise with how a couple may want to have the legal recognition—or some institutional formality or support to their relationship—to give them that sense of, even, permanence it may bring, or support. On the occasion of that is a celebration that a wedding can bring. I believe that everybody wants to celebrate their relationships. Your relationship is your business, and I have been happy to support that. I think I was happy when the Civil Union Bill came through, because in a sense it was a new legal recognition that was a mirror of marriage but it perhaps also maintained the age-old institution of marriage. I do think that in societies, traditions are important and have a place. A tradition is a convention, a belief, or a behaviour that stands the test of time. A tradition is the institutional memory of a society. It is not to be cast off or cast away quickly or easily, because it is the touchstone of a value that perhaps younger minds may not fully understand, yet enter into, because it is there. Traditions are what we use to guide people, I believe, into the things of life that have been proven to work.
Kris Faafoi followed:
I am proud to support this bill. To me, it speaks to the heart of the values of what being Pacific in New Zealand is. Those are values of family, love, inclusion, equality, respect, and having pride in who you are. Our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents came to New Zealand to give their families a better life. Vital in that was that they came to these shores and got a fair go, were treated equally but not discriminated against, and were given the respect that every New Zealander deserved. As we know, that was not always the case. There were battles, battles were won, and the Pacific community is now proud and vibrant. Our gay community is also proud and vibrant. They too have battled, and, like all other Kiwis, they deserve the full enjoyment of the values of family, love, inclusion, equality, and respect. I know there are strong religious veins in the Pacific community, and I respect that and the views that they have, but many young, gay Pacific Islanders have found this debate difficult. Many have grown up and maintain strong religious beliefs. They have told me one of the hardest things in the public debate has been hearing that the God that they worship seems to see them differently. My God does not.
Mojo Mathers spoke next, as a mother:
My family has been fortunate to have a beautiful rainbow thread that has woven itself in and out of most of the generations on both sides, and it has created artists and teachers, dreamers and doctors, to name just a few. This wonderful rainbow thread has been continued in the youngest generation and is reflected in my beautiful, brave, loving daughter. Last year she went to her first formal with her girlfriend. They looked absolutely stunning in black and gold with gold make-up. It was with immense pride that I watched them walk into that formal hand in hand, openly declaring their love and affection for each other. They had a wonderful evening and we have many lovely photos to remember it by. For me, one of the highlights of being a mother is when my daughter snuggles up to me on the sofa and shares with me her hopes, her dreams, her aspirations for her future. Like countless other young women, she hopes for love, marriage, children, a good job, and a house with a white picket fence. All of these options are available to her older sister. When this bill passes tonight, which I hope it does, it will give both of my daughters the equal opportunity to marry the person they love.
Mojo’s speech was lovely, and her daughters are very lucky people.
Paul Hutchison followed:
When it comes to marriage, as Rev. Margaret Mayman puts it, the overriding message of Christian faith is that we are all called to practise justice and compassion and to welcome those who are marginalised and oppressed. The biblical call to love our neighbour as ourselves provides the mandate for marriage equality. The ethical criterion of a marriage relationship is to do with equality, not the orientation of the partners. In the first reading of this bill I said that despite trying hard, I could not construct a strong enough intellectual, moral, health, or even spiritual reason to vote against it. I am now quite convinced that, at the end of the day, the strength of any human union is about love, tolerance, giving, forgiving, sharing, inclusiveness, commitment, and fairness irrespective of gender. These are universal qualities that have no boundaries.
Then Chris Auchinvole:
As the former Republican governor and current United States ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, wrote in an article outlining the conservative support for same-sex marriage: “Marriage is not an issue that people rationalise through the abstract lens of the law.” This debate that we have been engaged in has highlighted a divide in opinion amongst this nation; between young and old, and secular and spiritual, and even between members of the same faith and the same family. This type of divide is not new and it should not be something that we avoid or dismiss. We have faced many issues of conscience in our nation’s relatively short history, and I think we have grown stronger by facing them together, not always as adversaries but as fellow members of a small and empathetic nation that often gives fine examples to the rest of the world. It is because of this shared history that I have the faith that we can seize this opportunity to have discussions around the issues raised by this bill in our homes, our churches, and everywhere honest, thoughtful debate is respected. This bill is not a panacea, but it is an opportunity. If it is to pass—and we should pass this bill—that is just the beginning of a change process,
The last call was split between Ruth Dyson and Moana Mackey/ Ruth said:
The bill ensures that our religious freedoms for celebrants are maintained. We in the Government Administration Committee applied a belts and braces approach, to ensure that the law is beyond doubt in backing the rights of marriage celebrants to decline to marry a couple should such a marriage not be in accordance with their beliefs. The Marriage Act has since 1955 said that celebrants can do that, presumably to protect celebrants from being forced to marry heterosexual couples of different religions or—heaven forbid—marry somebody who was divorced.
And the final speaker was one of the best. Moana Mackey:
I am voting in favour because I cannot find any compelling reason why law-abiding, taxpaying Kiwis in committed, loving relationships should not be able to access the legal and social benefits of marriage purely based on something they cannot change: their sexual orientation. I am voting for this bill because I believe that it will do a lot of good. Just as important, I am voting for this bill because I am utterly and completely convinced that it will do no harm to marriage, to society, or to anyone else, regardless of how they may feel about the issue.
And a personal note:
My late grandmother always had a wonderfully uncomplicated approach to life. At one point she became quite taken with Brendan, the partner of one of my best friends from high school, Peter. She told me that she would not be at all disappointed if Brendan were to become her grandson-in-law. I said to her “But, Grandma, he’s gay.”, to which she responded “Well, your grandfather wasn’t the easiest person to live with, but you make marriage work.”
Lots of laughter at this, and then the vote.
77 MPs voted for the bill to become law and 44 MPs voted against. The same margin as second reading, but two MPs changed. National’s Hamilton East MP David Bennett went from a no to a yes. He explains why he votes yes on Facebook. And Labour Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene went from yes to no. Not yet heard what led to his change.
The galleries rose in a standing ovation that went on and on and on, followed by a short waiata. As this was happening MPs were hugging each other, and also standing and applauding back at all the supporters in the gallery. Very nice scenes as Louisa Wall was hugged and congratulated by even some MPs who voted against the bill. With the exception of Winston, the debate amongst MPs was universally good and respectful. Parliament is at its best with conscience issue debates and it was great to witness it first hand.
As I mentioned above, I’m doing another post on the wider issue, the celebrations afterwards and some personal observations from me.