August 30th, 2012 at 1:03 pm by David Farrar

The four members’ bills selected are:

53 Oaths and Declarations (Upholding the Treaty of Waitangi) Amendment Bill Te Ururoa Flavell
43 Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill Darien Fenton
39 Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill Scott Simpson
2 Care of Children Law Reform Bill Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda’s bill is a same sex adoption bill. Two major conscience issues in a week has almost killed me. The thought of another major campaign is enough to make moving to Palmie seem a good idea.

However while I am fully supportive of removing the legislative ban on same sex couples being able to adopt (note they can already adopt as individuals), I have blogged previously on the problems with this particular bill. I’m not sure it is a goer.

Complicating things also is that the marriage equality bill may lead to a de facto change in the adoption law anyway. One part of the Adoption Act refers merely to spouses, while another refers to husband and wife.


Colin Craig – being gay is a choice due to child abuse

July 28th, 2012 at 11:13 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

 Mr Craig told 3 News that people choose to be gay rather than being born that way, many as a result of being abused as children.

What an astonishing statement. I’m not sure what is more ignorant or offensive. The belief that people choose to be gay. When did Mr Craig choose to be heterosexual I wonder?

But even worse, his assertion that people choose to be gay because they were abused as a child. This is the sort of nut job statements I might expect in West Virginia, not New Zealand.

He says he has seen the impact same-sex parents have on their children but when asked if he knew any same-sex couples with children, he was cagey in his response.

“I actually do know of a couple, I don’t know them well. I wouldn’t say they were friends of mine.”

I’m sure he wouldn’t. Oh yuck, we can’t make friends with those gay people who were abused as children. They might infect us.

Another one his arguments – according to research he couldn’t remember – is that gay men have a lower life-expectancy than non-gay men.

“Does that matter? I think it does if you think of the kids they raise,” he says.

Good God. I didn’t think he could get worse. Using Colin Craig logic, then no Maori parents should be allowed to have children, as Maori life expectancy is lower than non-Maori.

As for the research Craig cites unnamed, it is probably the research by Paul Cameron that was so deeply flawed he got ejected from three professional bodies over it. An analysis is here, but the short version is he formed his conclusions based on obituary notices in gay newspapers, which is so far from a scientific sample as to not be funny.

He was so sure that homosexuality was a choice, he bet his own sexuality on it.

“Do you think you could choose to be gay if that is the case?,” he was asked.

“Sure. Sure I could,” he responded.

“You could choose to be gay?,” he was asked again.

“Yea, if I wanted to,’ he replied.

This fits with my theories about repression!

Let me say I could never ever be gay. Quite simply there is not one fibre of my body that wants to be intimate with men. I can’t change that – I am hopelessly addicted to falling for women. Likewise though, many (not all) gay men and women just do not find the opposite sex in any way attractive. It is not a choice. That is just the way they are.

Colin Craig may be mixing up sex with desire. He may be saying that he could have sex with a man. But sexual orientation is about attraction.

Mr Craig wants a referendum held on the issue so all of New Zealand can decide if homosexual couples can marry.

With Craig arguing on one side, I think a referendum would result in a huge vote in favour of same sex marriage.

National conference votes for same sex adoption

July 22nd, 2012 at 4:21 pm by David Farrar

A motion to extend adoption eligibility to couples in a civil union (hence same sex couples also) passed on the main floor of the National Party’s national annual conference yesterday by arounds a two thirds majority.

I’m massively pleased that the vast majority of the National Party grassroots membership who were at the conference voted for the remit. I think it shows how even over a relatively short period of five or six years, the views of the party have changed.

Huge congrats to the Young Nationals who put the remit up, spoke passionately in its favour, and did the hard yards lobbying delegates, arranging other speakers etc. It shows that youth wings can have a good impact on national politics – just as they did with the VSM legislation.

Now if a bill on the issue does get submitted and drawn out of the ballot, it will be a conscience vote for National MPs – as it should be. So the resolution of the conference is not binding. However I think it was be reasonably persuasive with some MPs in terms of demonstrating that there is majority support for such a move (as polls have shown also). It isn’t about saying there is no difference between different types of families – i is about saying that there shouldn’t be a legislative ban on certain types of families adopting – the law should be about making a decision which is in the best interest of the child.

The Young Nats managed to get this remit through both the Northern Regional Conference, and now the Annual Conference. They also managed to get passed a remit supporting a “pay protection” law, which would require unions to have their members pay them directly, rather than have it deducted out of pay packets along with PAYE.

Handing over law making

May 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

As I blogged yesterday I am in support of modernising our adoption laws. They are literally a relic from the 1950s. But the law reform is not just about whether same sex couples should be able to adopt, but needs to deal with a wide range of adoption issues, guardianship issues and surrogacy issues.

A few people think this will lead to many gay couples getting to adopt children, ahead of “deserving” heterosexual couples. But I quote Andrew Geddis on this:

This law change will result in only an infinitesimal increase in the number of children who actually get raised by a same-sex couples because there are Fuck All “stranger” adoptions in New Zealand (less than 100 a year). And then a given same-sex couple only will be able to adopt a child if the birth mother chose them ahead of all other eligible couples. So if gay couples could join the pool of people eligible to adopt in this manner, the number of children who would be placed with them likely would be negligible

What this means is that the argument about whether kids being raised by same-sex couples is good/bad is pretty much irrelevant to this issue, because it ISN’T ABOUT MORE KIDS BEING RAISED BY SAME SEX COUPLES THAN THERE ARE AT THE MOMENT.

What this is about is like what we saw on TV3, where two lesbians have lived together for 19 years, and both have a biological child. however they can not make each other the adoptive parent of each child. So if one of them dies, one of the children could be left in limbo. The current law actually prevents the best interests of the child being paramount.

Media reported yesterday that National MP Nikki Kaye and Green MP Kevin Hague have been working for around 18 months on an adoption law reform bill. As I indicated, it is a hugely complex area, and just identifying the key policy issues is quite a task.

Now some in Labour have been saying that there is no need for a bill by Hague/Kaye, as Jacinda Ardern already has a bill in the members’ ballot. This prompted me to look more closely at the bill, and I’m afraid it is very seriously flawed. I have absolutely no doubt that Jacinda genuinely wants good law reform in this area, but the bill she has put forward is basically little more than a legislative request for the Government to do something. The bill, which is only slightly longer than a press release, essentially does the following:

  1. Requires the Minister for the Law Commission to ask the Law Commission to review the law relating to the care of children and update its September 2000 report on adoption
  2. Requires the Law Commission to report within 12 months a report, recommendations and draft legislation
  3. Requires the Minister of Justice to introduce the bill, as drafted by the Law Commission, without amendment within seven days

There are a significant number of semi-fatal flaws with this approach. The first is timing. Under the Ardern bill, there would probably be no law change for four or more years until after it has been selected from the ballot. The likely timings are:

  • 1st reading – 3 months after introduction
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months
  • Law Commission report – 12 months
  • Govt Bill has first reading scheduled – up to 12 months
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months

So even if the Ardern bill was drawn tomorrow, any actual law change would take four or more years, so maybe the law would be changed by 2017. The problem is that Jacinda is trying to use a bill, to get the Law Commission to write a bill. But Ardern’s bill itself would have to go through the full legislative process which would take probably 12 months. And I am being generous in suggesting it could take 12 months to pass. Many member’s bill have spent 18 months just awaiting their first reading!

Effectively what Ardern wants could be achieved by writing a letter to the Minister of Justice, and this would save one to two year’s time if the Minister agreed. However Ardern is trying to legislate to force the Minister to introduce a bill, even if they do not want to. But she has made a fatal error. She has legislated that such a bill must be introduced within 7 days of the Law Commission drafting it, but she has not said that the Government must schedule it for a first reading debate.  So if the Government did not want the bill to progress, it would simply place it at the bottom of the order paper – which they can do as it would be a Government bill. Even a minority Government would be able to prevent the bill from ever being voted on – something they can’t do with a private members’ bill that actually seeks a law change – rather than just ordering the Government to introduce a bill.

So to be very clear, even if a majority in Parliament favoured law reform, the process outlined in this bill would give the Government an effective veto. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where for example it is after the 2014 election and say Colin Craig or Winston Peters could demand that the price of their support is the bill not proceed, as their constituents do not like it. By making it a Government bill, you lose control of its timing.

So the biggest problem if Ardern’s bill would not actually see any law change for four or more years, and could in fact never be voted on if the Government did not want it to pass. But that is only one flaw.

The second flaw is that the Ardern bill doesn’t specify a single policy principle. Not one. It gives actually no direction to the Law Commission as to what should be in the bill, what its scope should be, or even that the bill should not discriminate against same sex relationships. Every single detail is left to the Law Commission. This is a blank piece of paper. Now one could say, well surely they would mainly repeat what they reported in September 2000. Well they might. But it is worth considering that I think every single member of the Law Commission is now different from 12 year ago. So there is no guarantee that what the Law Commission would deliver is what Ardern wants. It is the job of legislators to spell out the general policy principles they want a law to reflect.

The third flaw is that the Minister of Justice is required to introduce whatever the Law Commission drafts, without amendment. Putting aside the rather important constitutional issues of making the Law Commission able to bypass Cabinet, it means that if a first reading is scheduled the MPs have to vote on whatever the Law Commission drafted. It could not be amended unless it survives to select committee. Such a bill could include a provision that all babies named David have to be placed into the care of CYFS and the Minister of Justice would be forced to introduce it without amendment. Sure that is an unlikely example, but it is a horrific precedent to have draft laws bypass Ministerial and/or MP approval, and going straight to a vote. This gives huge powers to the unelected Law Commissioners.

This is obviously a very bad idea. The political process is about MPs and parties working together to ensure a bill is acceptable and has enough support to pass first reading. There are often intense negotiations before a bill is introduced into Parliament.  The Ardern Bill actually entirely removes MPs from the legislative equation until the Law Commission bill reaches select committee – if it even made it that far. And the probability that it would face massive changes at select committee is enhanced when MPs have had zero say in its drafting.

The fourth flaw, I touched on earlier. Rather than introduce a private members’ bill that actually outlines the desired law changes, it just instructs the Government to introduce a bill in probably two years time. By then making it a Government bill, it means Parliament loses control of when it gets voted on, as Government bills are debated at the discretion of the Government. So by failing to specify that the bill must be scheduled for first (and subsequent) reading/s at the top of the Government order paper, the bill is basically entirely ineffective.

So in summary the Ardern bill is not a helpful (while I am sure well motivated) step towards sensible adoption law reform for the following four reasons:

  1. It would probably delay any actual law reform for four or more years. By contrast a private members bill which actually specified the proposed reforms could be passed into law within a year or so.
  2. There are absolutely no policy principles in the bill (not even that the welfare of the child is paramount). It is a total blank piece of paper for the Law Commission.
  3. The bill locks MPs out of any involvement in the eventual draft government legislation prepared by the Law Commission, making it far less likely of gaining the necessary support.
  4. The private members bill requires the Government to introduce a Government bill, which will then only progress at the timetable decided by the Government – rather than as Parliament wishes. Under MMP the two are not the same thing.

It is very easy to write a nine clause bill and trumpet that as the “solution”, claiming it would “address a wide range of concerns about the outdated Adoption Act”. But alas law making is not that simple or easy. Either you convince the Government to make adoption law a Government priority, or you draft a private members bill to do it yourself.

Adoption law reform

May 28th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young in the NZ Herald reports:

Two MPs from opposing parties, National’s Nikki Kaye and the Greens’ Kevin Hague, have joined forces to develop a bill that would legalise adoption by gay couples.

The National Party’s northern regional conference in Auckland at the weekend passed a remit in closed session supporting adoption by couples in a civil union.

I blogged this over the weekend. A very welcome move, and also good to see MPs working across party lines on an issue that impacts a lot of New Zealanders – I don’t mean just same sex adoption, but updating the adoption and surrogacy laws generally. They are woefully out of date.

Prime Minister John Key told the Herald yesterday the passage of the remit reflected the changing face of the National Party.

“The party is modernising. You can see by the number of young people. It’s ethnically a lot more diverse than in was. It’s more representative of modern day New Zealand. It’s a very positive and healthy thing.”

For many years the majority of delegates at conferences were old and white. This has changed, especially in Auckland. I recall being a Young National myself and TVNZ asking me up until what age you are considered a Young National, and replying “Oh, around 60” 🙂

Ms Kaye, the MP for Auckland Central, said she had worked for 18 months on the issue with Mr Hague, a West Coast gay MP.

She said many couples had fertility issues and more were considering surrogacy.

It made sense to consider adoption and surrogacy together, as they reflected the more modern arrangements New Zealanders were choosing to structure their families.

When the MPs started at looking at the Adoption Act 1955, they decided it would be best to approach it from a perspective in which the welfare of the child was paramount.

This is the sensible focus. Legislative prohibitions against certain types of relationships may result in outcomes where the child’s welfare is not paramount. It is far better for the totality of the circumstances of a prospective parent or parents is taken into account.

The two MPs are drafting legislation to amend the Care of Children Bill 2004 based on a previous Law Commission report that looked at guardianship and adoption.

The measure should be ready in a few months, Ms Kaye said, and would be a private member’s bill in her name or Mr Hague’s.

It was a complex piece of work and there would be about 40 policy decisions. Some would be controversial, including the age of adoption, adoption by same-sex couples, adoption by single people, Maori adoption practices and issues relating to surrogacy.

It is a hugely complex area, especially as what actually happens today is so far removed from the old law which was all about “closed” adoptions where a birth parent gives their child up to the state who gives it to adoptive parents. Such adoptions are almost extinct in New Zealand. The majority of adoptions involve arrangements between birth and adoptive parents directly, or through surrogacy.

Nats vote for same sex adoption

May 26th, 2012 at 1:24 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil blogs that a remit was put to the National Party’s Northern Regional Conference by the Young Nationals:

That the National Party legalise adoption for those who have entered into a civil union partnership.

The remit was passed by the conference and will now be considered for debate at the overall party conference in July.

I’m really pleased that the delegates at the Northern Conference voted in favour of the remit. The outcome reflects well on them and the party.


Conscience issues

April 23rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance in a lengthy article looks at three controversial conscience issues which are unlikely to be debated by Parliament unless a member’s bill on them is drawn. They are euthanasia, gay adoption and abortion.

My positions on the three issues are:

  • Euthanasia should be legal under strictly defined circumstances
  • Abortion should be legally available on demand (which is the practice but not the law) up until the point where the foetus or unborn child could live unassisted
  • Same sex couples should be able to adopt

Gay issues

October 6th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rainbow Wellington asked all the parties their views on various issues. For some reason they asked not just about gay issues but also weird stuff like prisoners having the vote. Anyway I thought the responses from the parties on gay adoption and marriage (both of which I support) was interesting.

Gay Adoption

ACT – ACT supports ending the discrimination same sex couples face when trying to adopt a child. The Adoption Act 1955 is out-dated and the criteria for adoption should focus on how fit a person or people are to be parents, not their sexual orientation.

A very clear statement that states they support ending discrimination and that sexual orientation should not be a criteria, rather how fit people will be as parents.

Labour – Labour believes that the current adoption laws are antiquated and discriminatory, which need to be modernised and updated. The current Act fails to take into account the number of legislative changes introduced over the past decade areas such as assisted reproduction technology, surrogacy and the legal status of de facto relationships and civil unions. A Labour-led government will enact legislation that will require the Law Commission to review and update adoption law to better reflect modern New Zealand. Labour has already drafted and tabled a Bill to give effect to this.

What I find interesting is that Labour’s answer doesn’t in fact answer the question. They say the Act is discriminatory but don’t specifically say they will allow same sex adoptions. They just say it should be modernised and adopted.

Maori Party – If there is a need for children to be cared for we believe strongly that whānau, regardless of sexual orientation, must be encouraged to care for these children within the family.

Again very clear. The Greens to no surprise are also explicit.

Greens – The Green Party’s policy on this is that parenting skills are distinct from sexual orientation or gender identity. We support equal criteria for both ‘rainbow’ and heterosexual couples in their assessment for suitability and eligibility for parenting. Spokesperson Kevin Hague has formed and convenes a cross party group to reform adoption law.

National won’t commit either way:

We are aware of issue with the Adoption Act. It’s an old piece of legislation and has been identified as an area for potential review. We are currently running a very full justice agenda focused on making New Zealand safer, putting more police on our streets, and reducing crime. In the context of the current economic environment reform of adoption laws is not a priority for the Government.

Gay Marriage

Labour – Our initial focus has been to ensure that existing rights under marriage should also extend to civil unions, and we will complete that work. But Labour believes in formal equality before the law for people in any relationship status, including marriage.

Again, no specific commitment at all. Both times they avoid the question.

Greens – The Green Party strongly supports full equality and believes that this will eventually be achieved either through the amendment of the Marriage Act to include us, or through the repeal of the Marriage Act (which would leave civil unions as the method by which the state formally recognises relationships, and marriage as a purely religious institution).

I actually quite like the Green position of having the state registering relationships only, and leaving marriages to the different religions who could adopt their own rules.

ACT – To be clear now, I should have voted in favour of the Bill in all its stages. I admit I don’t understand why, having legalised civil unions between two people, irrespective of their gender, there is still pressure to provide for same sex ‘marriage’. In the English language I have always understood ‘marriage’ to be between a man and a woman.

Interesting to see Don say he should have voted for civil unions. I was disappointed when he didn’t vote for them at the final reading.

National – In the context of the current economic environment and our strong focus on providing stability, reducing debt, and returning to surplus by 2014 the government currently has no plans to amend the Marriage Act.

Of course on an issue such as this, most MPs will have a conscience vote regardless of party.

A reader has pointed out this quote from UK PM David Cameron:

“I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”

Would be great to hear that from an MP here.

Coddington on gay adoption

January 11th, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Deborah Coddington writes:

What a mean-spirited bunch of commentators we’ve seen in this country, crawling out from under their rocks to spit upon the news that Sir Elton John became a father on Christmas Day. …

Karl du Fresne, in his aptly named “Curmudgeon” Dominion Post column, curiously finds it abhorrent that a 63-year-old “jaded, ageing but fabulously wealthy pop singer” amuses himself with a surrogate child – “the ultimate gay fashion accessory when the hits stop coming”.

Ouch. Du Fresne hopes Sir Elton doesn’t dump the baby at the SPCA like those who tire of the puppies they get for Christmas.

His colleague, Linley Boniface, has a minor tantrum that Sir Elton, a “shopaholic” at the best of times, goes out and spends about $200,000 on Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John. …

It’s not the father’s sexuality that “sends my alarm bells ringing”, she wails, it’s that Sir Elton “appears to have no clue that raising a child is more of a commitment than buying another mansion, football club or sequinned Edwardian frock coat”.

Coddington points out

My first point is, in all these cruel criticisms, no one has paused to consider someone else of importance in this little family – that is, David Furnish, Elton John’s wife, or husband, or whatever you like to call the spouse of a civil union. Furnish is 48, a former advertising man from Ogilvy and Mather, now film-maker and writer. He has said of their marriage: “We love each other very much and take our relationship very seriously.”

So, Mr and Mrs Elton John, who, as far as we can tell love each other very much, really want a child. If you’ve never experienced the desperate yearning for a child, and the inability to have a child, you have no idea of the heartbreak a person, or a couple, experiences.

In an age when children are abused on a daily basis, shouldn’t we celebrate that some babies are still wanted?

Yep, we need good parents where we can find them.

Furnish is also on record as saying they had delayed having a child until Elton’s international touring days slowed down so they could devote more time to being full-time parents. They didn’t want their child raised by nannies.

I seriously doubt this couple’s family completion would be so criticised if Elton had been with a 48-year-old woman for 18 years. Somehow I can’t see baby Zachary being dismissed as the ultimate heterosexual accessory.

And where is the evidence that two parents, one of whom won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music when he was 11, have no clue about the commitments involved in raising a child?

And here’s something else about Elton John that I admire enormously. When he was 43, he went into rehab and kicked his lifelong addiction to drugs, alcohol and bulimia. If he can do that, he can raise babies all right.

So why shouldn’t two people who love each other be allowed to have a baby?

Indeed. So long as they will be good parents, the sexuality isn’t an issue for me.


February 17th, 2010 at 3:24 pm by David Farrar

The couple on the right are South Florida trade-show executive Vanessa Alenier and her partner, Melanie Leon. They just won custody and the right to adopt a one year old girl who was born to a relative who was unable to provide good care.

So this was keeping the child in the extended family. But the decision got attacked by certain religious groups, including the Florida Family Policy Council.

But the Orlando Sentinel revealed, the photo distributed with their media release condemning the court’s decision used the photo on the left. The actual lesbian couple looked far too nice and wholesome, so they found the most scary lesbian couple photo they could and used that instead.

Isn’t that disgusting?

Hat Tip: unPC Lesbian

Gay Adoption

August 20th, 2009 at 6:46 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The acting head judge of the Family Court has called for gay and lesbian couples to be given rights to adopt children, just as a private member’s bill on the issue goes into the ballot for Parliament’s order paper today. …

He said the Adoption Act, which has not been fully reviewed since 1955, was outdated and unjustly discriminatory, breaching the Bill of Rights Act, the Human Rights Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Only married couples and individuals can adopt children under the act. …

It is interesting that an individual can adopt, but not a de facto couple.

My position on the issue of gay adoption, is that there should not be a prohibition on it, but that whether or not the prospective parents are of the same or different genders should be a factor in deciding on individual cases.

I do believe that it is important for a child to have both a male and female adult in their lives, and the ideal circumstance is that the prospective parents are a male and female married (or civilly united) to each other.

But that is only one of many factors that should be taken into account when deciding adoptions. Some of the others are length of relationship, job stability, income, criminal record, health, age etc etc.

I’m not sure how adoptions are currently decided but I do know there are many more people wanting to adopt, than there are babies made available for adoption. Hence I assume there is some sort of scoring criteria used to decide who gets priority – perhaps similar to the criteria used to determine eligibility to qualify to immigrate here.

So again I would not have a prohibition, but if two couples were equally “qualified” to adopt a child, I believe the best interests of the child are to grow up with both a father and a mother. Hence I also support a married couple having priority over an individual (note again individuals are not banned).

But there would be situations where a gay couple could well score “higher” on the scale of best able to provide a family to an unwanted child (and many gay couples already are parents). For example a gay couple who have been together for 15 years, are in excellent health, and earning high incomes would be better than a married couple who have been together only 18 months, with one parent not working due to illness and the other earning just $30,000 a year.

Really what it comes down to is treating each applicant for adoption on its merits, and making decisions purely on what is the best interests of the child. A prohibition on sexual orientation actually acts against being able to make a decision based on individual circumstances.