Marriage Bill Third Reading

April 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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.

And further:

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.

Maryan Street:

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.

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Geddis on adoption

March 25th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrew Geddis has a very informative blog post on the impact of Louisa Wall’s Marriage Bill on the adoption act. Professor Geddis writes:

A LGBT individual already may adopt a child under the Adoption Act 1955. Take the example of a lesbian woman who has a 6 month old nephew who is orphaned in a car crash, with that woman being named as the child’s guardian in the child’s parent’s will. That woman already can apply to become the child’s “parent” by way of a sole adoption order under s.3(1), and her sexuality will not be an issue in deciding whether or not such an order should be made. 

This is a key issue. There is no current ban or even reference to sexuality when it comes to adoptions. The only difference in the law will be both partners in a same sex relationship will be able to adopt (if they are married), rather than one partner adopt and the other become a guardian.

Last year there were only around 50 “stranger adoptions” in all of New Zealand to married couples. There are far, far more couples (straight and same-sex) wanting to adopt than there are children put up for adoption. So even when married same sex couples are permitted to “stranger adopt”, the number of children placed with a same sex couple will be vanishingly small.

I doubt there will be even one a year.

Consequently, the true impact of the change wrought by the same sex marriage law is to open a route for same sex couples to jointly adopt a child under s.3(3). Because a married same sex couple will be “spouses” in terms of the Adoption Act (just as married straight couples are now), they can go to court together to seek an order that they both be recognised as the parents of a particular child.

Again, that is the only real change. Instead of one partner being the adoptive parent and one being a guardian, they’ll both be adoptive parents.

Louisa Wall says much the same in the NZ Herald:

The only change that will occur if my bill passes is that if a couple marry, they will be deemed “spouses” and they qualify as joint applicants for an adoption order. That means both parents will have the same status under the law …

 

 

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Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill Submission

October 24th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR ON THE
MARRIAGE (DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE) AMENDMENT BILL TO THE GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE

 

About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.
  2. While not a detail I would normally include in a submission, I am heterosexual, so have no self-interest in this bill.

Overall Bill

  1. I submit in support of the bill proceeding. To quote Dr Paul Hutchison, “I simply cannot construct a strong enough intellectual moral health or even spiritual argument against it … and the reverse is very much the case.” This bill will allow a couple of the same sex to marry each other, which I believe to be good for the couple, good for the institution of marriage, and good for New Zealand. I do support some amendments being made to clarify the impact of this bill on other Acts of Parliament

Equality

  1. A same sex couple is of course different to a couple of the opposition gender. But this doesn’t mean that the law should discriminate in not allowing same sex couples to marry. Same sex couples fall in love, commit to each other, form households and raise children – the core of being a family. The law should allow such couples to marry. Why would we want an adult couple desiring marriage to not be able to marry?
  2. Some argue that as a same sex couple can’t produce children naturally, that they should be ineligible to marry. I do not accept this argument as many married couples are infertile, choose not to have children, or have children from past relationships. We don’t ban woman who have reached menopause from marrying, and now should we ban same sex couples.

Strengthening Marriage

  1. I think marriage is a wonderful institution, and the benefits of marriage are well documented. I believe allowing a same sex couple to marry, hence committing to each other for life, strengthens the institution of marriage.
  2. I would like to quote three conservative leaders as to why same sex marriage is good for marriage. US Solictor-General (for George W Bush) Theordore Olsen has said “Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize.Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation. At its best, it is a stable bond between two individuals who work to create a loving household and a social and economic partnership. We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society.

    The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance. Conservatives should celebrate this, rather than lament it.”

    and“I understand, but reject, certain religious teachings that denounce homosexuality as morally wrong, illegitimate, or unnatural; and I take strong exception to those who argue that same-sex relationships should be discouraged by society and law. Science has taught us, even if history has not, that gays and lesbians do not choose to be homosexual any more than the rest of us choose to be heterosexual.

    To a very large extent, these characteristics are immutable, like being left-handed. And, while our Constitution guarantees the freedom to exercise our individual religious convictions, it equally prohibits us from forcing our beliefs on others. I do not believe that our society can ever live up to the promise of equality, and the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, until we stop invidious discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

  3. UK Conservative PM David Cameron: “But for me, leadership on families also means speaking out on marriage. Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It pulls couples together through the ebb and flow of life. It gives children stability. And it says powerful things about what we should value. So yes, we will recognise marriage in the tax system.

    But we’re also doing something else. I once stood before a 
    Conservative conference and said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and another man. You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.
    And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.

  4. Former Australian Liberal Party Leader Malcolm Turnbull said “Families are the foundation of our society and I am firmly of the view that that we would be a stronger society if more people were married – and by that I mean formally, legally married – and fewer were divorced. …And I have to say that I am utterly unpersuaded by the proposition that my marriage to Lucy, or indeed any marriage, is undermined by two gay men or two lesbians setting up house down the road – whether it is called a marriage or not.

    Regrettably, this aspect of the debate is dripping with the worst sort of hypocrisy, and the deepest pools are all too often found among the most sanctimonious.

    Let us be honest with each other. The threat to marriage is not the gays. It is a lack of loving commitment – whether it is found in the form of neglect, indifference, cruelty or adultery, to name just a few manifestations of the loveless desert in which too many marriages come to grief.”

  5. I agree with Messrs. Cameron, Turnbull and Olsen that allowing same sex couples to marry will strengthen the institution of marriage.

Welcoming diversity

  1. Adolescence is a difficult time for many teenagers, and gay/lesbian teenagers especially can find it more challenging than most as they wonder whether there is something “wrong” with them as they are not attracted to the opposite sex like most of their peers are. We see the results of this in the significantly higher levels of suicide amongst gay and lesbian teenagers. The 2007 Auckland University study of around 9,000 secondary school students found 20% of youth attracted to the same (or both) sex attempted suicide in the last year. This is an appallingly high figure.
  2. Knowing that despite their “different” sexual orientation, that one day they can love and marry someone will I think send a very powerful message to young gay and lesbian New Zealanders that there is nothing wrong in being different, and that the Parliament of New Zealand has said so by allowing same sex couples to marry.

Tradition

  1. One argument against allowing same sex couples to marry is that this goes against the traditional definition of marriage.
  2. This is no surprise. Up until 27 years ago, it was a criminal offence for a homosexual man to even have consensual sex with another adult man. So of course there is no recent tradition of same sex marriage.
  3. If we go back far enough to be very traditional, I would point out that In the 1st century AD Emperor Nero is reported to have married a male slave. Later in 342 AD Emperor Constantius II outlawed same sex marriage with a penalty of execution. This suggests that there were a number of same sex marriages prior to that.
  4. Regardless marriage has in fact changed significantly over time. I follow with some examples.
  5. Traditionally the age of marriage was the onset of puberty. In the 12th century European canon law documented by Gratian allowed marriage from the age of seven onwards, and stayed in force religiously until 1918. In 1689 a nine year old Mary Hathaway was married in the US.
  6. Interracial marriage was banned in the US until the California Supreme Court over-turned this in 1948 and then the US Supreme Court in 1967. The ban was not removed from the Alabama state constitution until the year 2000.
  7. Married couples were prohibited from using contraception in the US until 1965.
  8. Traditionally under English common law, a married woman had no legal identity outside that of her husband, until laws started to change in 1839. It wasn’t until 1981 that a married woman in the US had equal property rights with her husband.
  9. I hope these examples show that the nature of marriage, and the eligibility of two people to marry, has changed over time and I think we would all agree for the better. Tradition should not trump equality.

Religious v Civil Marriage

  1. Some people advocate that ideally the state should not decide who can or can’t marry. That marriage is primarily a religious institution, and that the state should merely register civil unions, and allow couples to get a “blessing of marriage” from a religion should they wish to.
  2. I agree that this would be an ideal situation, respecting the origins of marriage as a religious ceremony. If an MP wishes to put up a bill abolishing marriage as a civil institution, then that would be good, and I would advocate for its passage,
  3. However the reality is that marriage is a state institution in pretty much every country on Earth, and that it is unlikely to ever not be a state institution in New Zealand. While it remains a state institution, I believe it would be wrong to deny the institution of marriage to same sex couples.
  4. PM John Key recently said that in politics you don’t start with a blank slate of paper, you start with the real world. In the real world marriage is a state institution, and rejecting same sex marriage on the basis that the state shouldn’t decide at all who can get married is turning a blind eye to the fact that the state does decide, and is likely to always do so.

Amendments

  1. It is unclear to me whether this bill as currently worded would allow a married same sex couple to adopt under the Adoption Act 1955. I note a gay or lesbian individual can currently adopt, but not jointly with their partner.
  2. The definition of adoptive parent in s2 of the Adoption Act refers to a husband and a wife. However in s3(2) it refers to “2 spouses jointly” being able to apply for an adoption order. I suspect a court would have to decide which clause takes precedence, which will mean uncertainty.
  3. To remove uncertainty, I propose that this bill be amended with the addition of a clause stating that a married couple should be treated as eligible to jointly adopt under the Adoption Act. Arguably such a clause could be worded to apply to any other Act which refers to married couples, spouses or husbands and wives.
  4. A benefit of having a specific clause amending the Adoption Act is it would allow MPs to vote explicitly on both the issue of same sex marriage and same sex (as a couple) adoption. I would advocate Parliament votes in favour of both.
  5. Some people have expressed a concern that churches could be forced to marry same sex couples in contravention to their religious beliefs. I agree this is undesirable. I do not regard this as likely, and note neither does the Human Rights Commission. To remove doubt, I recommend an explicit clause be inserted to state no religious body, or minister of religion shall be required to perform a marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs, nor provide facilities for such a ceremony unless that facility is available to the general public.
  6. Another concern is that it is an offence under s56 of the Marriage Act to allege that “any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married” and that this could capture someone saying that a same sex marriage is not in the eyes of their religion a “true” marriage. I recommend the select committee look at amending or repealing s56 to minimize this perceived risk. I note there has never been a prosecution (it appears) under s56, and other laws such as defamation may be sufficient to repeal it safely.

Thank you for considering this submission. I would like to make an oral submission in support, and look forward to appearing.

 

David Farrar

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Adoption law reform

October 14th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Green MP Kevin Hague has announced:

 Green MP Kevin Hague today unveiled a Bill to comprehensively overhaul adoption law and address related surrogacy issues, which will be entered in the next Members’ bill ballot.

“This Bill is the result of considerable work, and is a much more ambitious reform than is usually attempted through the Members’ bill process,” Kevin Hague said.

“The Law Commission reviewed adoption law and in 2000 recommended the consolidation of the legislation relating to parenting and care of children. The changes they recommended are what we have based my Members Bill on.

“We have also used previous Ministry of Justice advice, and more recently had assistance from other experts with an interest in these issues. I want to thank everyone for helping us get the Bill this far.

The current Act is almost 60 years old, and has almost no relevance to what is happening today. It is primarily based on “closed” adoptions and the vast majority of adoptions today are “open”.

The Member’s Bill places adoption in the Care of Children Act, as originally intended by the Law Commission, and makes the best interests of the child the fundamental principle underpinning the law. The Bill also:

  • Ensures that all adoptions will be “open” unless exceptional circumstances mean there is a need to extinguish links with the child’s biological parents. While this has become common practice, the current law does not provide for it at all.
  • Removes unnecessary restrictions on the kinds of people who may be considered to adopt, ensuring that adoptive parents can be selected from all the options, in the best interests of the child.
  • Acknowledges, but does not regulate whāngai arrangements, which are instead controlled by traditional Iwi practice.
  • Provides for the adoption of children conceived and born through altruistic surrogacy arrangements.

I very much agree that the focus should be on the best interests of the child, and arbitrary restrictions should not be in place to restrict an adoption which is best for the child.

“Drafting a Bill of this size means that I’m sure there are further improvements that can be made. I will continue to work with interested parties to fine-tune the Bill while it sits in the ballot waiting to be drawn.

Few bills get drawn in their first ballot, and it is indeed sensible to listen to feedback and improve them for future ballots.

GayNZ has written:

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern will put forward an amendment to her adoption bill at its upcoming first reading to immediately fix the basic discrimination in the current law, because the full overhaul her proposed legislation will lead to will take a long time.

The problem is you can not amend a bill at first reading. Standing orders do not allow for amendments to a bill to be considered at first reading. You can change a bill between members’s ballots before it is selected. You can have a select committee amend a bill, or you can amend a bill at the committee of the house stage. There is no provision to amend a bill at first reading.

Any MP can ask for leave to do something outside standing orders, but this requires not a single MP out of 121 to object, and have never known this to be granted for a first reading amendment that is substantive.

I blogged over four and a half months ago on the problems in Jacinda’s bill. It was resubmitted unchanged over three months later. The time for amendments was before resubmitting it. You simply can not amend a bill (without unanimous leave) at first reading. Now I’m not suggesting MPs should change their bills, just because I’ve criticised them. But the fact that Jacinda is now trying to amend her bill, indicates that many others share at least some of my concerns over her bill. Note that I believe we all want the same thing – a modern child-focused adoption law.

The challenge for an MP, is to not just write a bill, but to seek feedback on it from colleagues, from interested groups, from experts. You want to have it fit for purpose before it gets drawn from the ballot.

For those interested the Hague bill is here. I’m sure Kevin would welcome feedback on improvements to it (that are consistent with its aim).

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NOOOO!

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.

 

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