Defying the Supreme Court, a county clerk says she was acting under “God’s authority” Tuesday while continuing to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, whose lawyers asked a federal judge to hold her in contempt of court.
The Supreme Court refused Monday to allow Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ office to deny the licenses because of her religious beliefs. However, on Tuesday morning, she turned away at least four couples.
“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” Davis said in a statement on the website of her lawyers, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. “It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me, it is a decision of obedience.”
Yet Ms Davis herself is on her fourth marriage!
But her detractors mock her moral stand, noting that Davis was married and divorced three times before marrying her fourth husband.
Pretty sure God says divorce is wrong also.
Davis won her $80,000-a-year office in November, running as a Democrat, and succeeded her mother who served as county clerk for 37 years, according to The Morehead News.
County Clerks don’t get to decide which laws they obey. Her job is to implement the law, not to place herself above it.
Later in the morning, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union filed two motions in U.S. District Court to hold Davis in contempt of court and compel her to start issuing marriage licenses again to those who apply. They want her to be severely fined, not jailed.
Maybe an $80,000 fine to match the $80,000 salary she is paid.
Regardless of your view on same sex marriage, it is the job of public officials to uphold the law.
A deeply divided Supreme Court on Friday delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live.
The court’s action rewarded years of legal work by same-sex marriage advocates and marked the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence.
Marriages began Friday in states that had previously thwarted the efforts of same-sex couples to wed, while some states continued to resist what they said was a judicial order that changed the traditional definition of marriage and sent the country into uncharted territory. As of the court’s decision Friday morning, there were 14 states where same-sex couples were not allowed to marry.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who has written all of the court’s decisions recognizing and expanding gay rights, said the decision was based on the fundamental right to marry and the equality that must be afforded gay Americans.
“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Kennedy wrote. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
I have mixed feelings on this. I welcome the outcome, but not the method.
I think it great that all Americans now have the right to marry the person they love (with rare exceptions such as family). And to have the US Supreme Court rule that gay Americans have a constitutional right to marry their loves ones, with mean a huge amount to gay Americans.
So just as I fought hard for same sex marriage to be legal in New Zealand, I welcome it in the United States.
All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented, and each wrote a separate opinion.
The common theme in their dissents was that judicial activism on the part of five members of the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people.
“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” wrote Roberts, who for the first time in his tenure marked his disagreement with a decision by reading part of his dissent from the bench.
“Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it,” he wrote.
Scalia called the decision a “threat to American democracy,” saying it robs citizens of “the freedom to govern themselves.”
I do agree with the Conservative Justices though that while the outcome is to be celebrated, the process is not. I think it is a stretch to claim that a document written 200 years ago was intended to allow same sex marriage – considering same sex activity was a criminal offence at the time.
Having a court of nine appointed judges decide on such a massive issue, makes it less likely to gain widespread acceptance than a decision made by referendum or an elected legislature.
The wonderful result in Ireland, where a staunchly Catholic nation voted to legalise same sex marriage was the best way for it to happen. No one could attack the legitimacy of the decision. No one could say it was out of touch politicians or activist judges. In fact having the public vote it in, sent a message to religions that if they want to retain followers, they may have to change with the times.
In the US, it was elected legislatures that gave women the vote. This made it far less controversial, than if the US Supreme Court had done it (which inevitably they would have). By contrast the reason abortion is such a massively controversial issue in the US, is because the Supreme Court decided it for the whole country, rather than let voters or elected legislatures decide. That resentment is why it is such a toxic issue today.
However I think this ruling will be less controversial over time. That is mainly because so many states had already legalised same sex marriage, and public opinion on same sex marriage had dramatically changed over a decade – possibly the largest change on a social issues ever in such a small period of time.
Another difference between the controversy over the abortion Roe vs Wade ruling and this one, is that with same sex marriage, the opponents of it are not directly affected. Yes they think it is wrong, but it is hard to point to a concrete harm except a generic changing of society’s morals. However with abortion, opponents believe that an eight week old foetus is living human being, and that abortion is not far removed from murder.
So I think it is unlikely that in a few years, this will be an issue at all in US politics. In fact some analysts are saying (and I agree) that this has done Republican politicians a favour as they can now say that the issue is settled regardless of their personal views, and don’t have to worry about being off side with a large majority of the population.
A CANBERRA couple has announced their intention to divorce if gay people are allowed to get married too.
Nick Jensen, who posed with his wife Sarah on the cover of the latest issue ofCanberra CityNews, writes of the Christian couple’s decision to end their marriage under the headline, “Gay law change may force us to divorce”.
“My wife and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary. But later this year, we may be getting a divorce,” he writes.
“The decision to divorce is not one we’ve taken lightly. And certainly, it’s not one that many will readily understand. And that’s because it’s not a traditional divorce.”
Mr Jensen goes on to explain the divorce plan, where the pair will continue to live together, have more kids, and refer to each other as husband and wife, but will legally end their marriage because they believe “marriage is not a human invention”.
“Our view is that marriage is a fundamental order of creation. Part of God’s human history. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman before a community in the sight of God. And marriage of any couple is important to God regardless of whether that couple recognises God’s involvement or authority in it,” he writes.
It’s fine to view marriage as purely a religious ceremony, but if that is your view then shouldn’t he have got divorced when atheists were allowed to marry?
Ireland is the first country in the world to approve same sex marriage by popular vote. In all other countries it has been the legislatures or judiciary.
Ireland is a profoundly religious and Catholic country, but they have voted 62% to 38% in favour of a constitutional amendment to allow same sex marriage – a landslide result.
Of the 43 electorates, 42 voted in favour. The votes in favour ranged from 75% to 49%.
Ireland is 84% Catholic and only 8% Atheist.
The text is:
Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.
In 10 years time, I doubt there will be a single western country that doesn’t allow same sex marriage and the next generation will look back on the days when it was banned with the same puzzlement as today’s generation regard segregation in the US.
This graph (HT: Mark Textor) shows the massive change in just ten years in Australia. In the US support is at around 60%. Again, it won’t be an issue at all for the next generation.
A major shift towards same-sex marriage is under way within the Liberal Party, with marriage equality advocates saying 11 Liberal MPs have privately switched to supporting a change since January.
Liberal MPs could discuss whether they should be granted a free vote on the issue as early as Tuesday, with Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm due to begin the parliamentary debate on his “freedom to marry” bill on Thursday.
The Liberal Democrats are a classical liberal party, with one Senator.
So far, only a small group of Liberal MPs, including frontbenchers Malcolm Turnbull, Simon Birmingham and Kelly O’Dwyer, have come out publicly in favour of same-sex marriage.
But marriage equality advocates, who have been meeting with MPs over recent weeks, said there is now a significant change under way inside the party.
“Since the beginning of the year, 11 Coalition MPs and senators have privately indicated to us they have switched to supporting marriage equality from being opposed or undecided,” Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome told Fairfax Media.
It’s pretty inevitable. In the US, it is now legal in 36 states, representing 70% of the population. In the last few years, it consistently wins at the ballot. Almost everyone under 40 is supportive of allowing same sex marriages.
Lawmakers in Luxembourg, whose prime minister is openly gay, has overwhelmingly approved changes in the small European nation’s legislation governing marriage that will allow people of the same sex to wed and to adopt children.
Sort of amusing that they have a gay PM before they have gay marriage. A country with a PM who couldn’t get married (well not to someone he is attracted to).
But that isn’t what I found most interesting:
Under the reform, Luxembourg’s legislators also fixed the legal age for marriage at 18 and dropped existing legal requirements for a pre-wedding medical exam, as well as the 300-day waiting period that had been imposed on widows or widowers before they could remarry.
They required a pre-wedding medical exam!! And had a waiting period for widows!
Other strange laws they had:
Girls could marry at 16 but boys only at 18
Only civil marriages are recognised
The blood tests must be within 2 months of the marriage
Tech workers in Silicon Valley are debating whether Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich got the comeuppance he deserved or was himself a victim of intolerance when he resigned under pressure this week amid outrage over his opposition to same-sex marriage.
It was intolerance. He wasn’t a campaigner or political activist. He dared to make a $1,000 donation in 2008 to a cause that is now unpopular – and got hounded out of his job for it.
In 2008 Barack Obama was also against same sex marriage.
When I blogged on this issue a week or so ago, some moron on Twitter did a comparison to someone who is a member of the KKK. Yes to some on the left, not being a supporter of same sex marriage is just like being a supporter of the KKK and lynching black people.
I’m a right winger who campaigned hard for same sex marriage. I’m thrilled it has been introduced in NZ. But I don’t judge those who had a different view.
On Friday, news of Eich’s departure prompted a backlash on Twitter. Many suggested Silicon Valley was intolerant of people with views outside northern California’s liberal mainstream.
Even Rarebit’s Hampton Catlin said he had not anticipated the issue’s escalation and was saddened by Eich’s resignation.
“We absolutely believe people should be allowed to have personal opinions, but we also believe that we are allowed to disagree and to try and change someone’s mind by expressing our own personal story,” the Catlins said in a statement.
I think it is horrific that Eich was forced out of a job after two weeks – not for anything he did in the job or since being appointed. But due to a six year old donation. It was a victory for intolerance.
Cupid.com, the popular online dating site, called for a boycott of Mozilla Firefox to protest the world’s Number 2 web browser naming a gay marriage opponent as chief executive.
OkCupid visitors who accessed the website through Firefox on Monday were told in a message to use other browsers such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Google’s Chrome.
“Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples,” the message said. “We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”
“Especially in the kind of modern hero culture, the CEO is equivalent to the company,” said Christian Rudder, an OkCupid co-founder. “We have users who are trying to find other people and we wanted to point out that this browser might be in conflict with their own values.”
The non-profit Mozilla Foundation’s appointment of Eich as CEO on March 24 has attracted criticism from software developers, including its employees who have publicly called for Eich’s resignation on social media.
I find this outrageous. Eich made a $1,000 donation to a cause he supported in 2008 (a cause around 40% of Americans agree with) and those with an opposing view basically say he should be blacklisted from employment.
I disagree with Eich on same sex marriage, but his views do not affect his ability to be CEO of Mozilla. One can absolutely legitimately have a view against same sex marriage, but still be an excellent employer and CEO. Remember Barack Obama was against same sex marriage until 18 months ago – and Bill Clinton was also when he was President.
Turning that issue into a sort of litmus test of acceptability of employment is a new form of McCarthyism.
Since civil unions began in 2005, the totals have been:
1,449 female couples (45%)
1,092 male couples (34%)
657 male-female couples (21%)
For marriage the data for the last quarter is:
61 female couples (2.2%)
56 male couples (2.0%)
2,681 male-female couples (95.8%)
However same sex marriages were only available for just under half the quarter.
The total number of same sex marriages and unions in the quarter was 139 and the total number of marriages and unions was 2,831. That means 4.9% of unions and marriages were of same sex couples. Now that was for only half a quarter but one would also expect an initial flurry. U guess we won’t know for a few more quarters what the long-term marriage rates will be for each. It would be interesting to find out if over time there was a greater or smaller marriage rate among same sex couples and heterosexual couples. But that is hard to calculate without know the population size for each group/
Six Canterbury couples are expected to wed today as the first same-sex weddings take place.
A law comes into effect this morning making New Zealand the 15th country in which same-sex couples can legally get married.
Cantabrians planning to marry today will start their big day at the registry office, which opens at 8.30am. This will be non-heterosexual couples’ first chance to pick up their wedding licences.
Department of Internal Affairs figures show six notices of intended marriage had been issued for the Canterbury region on Friday, indicating those people wanted to wed today. Nationally, 31 have been issued.
One couple hoping to make the rush from registry office to altar is Kim Earney, 38, and her fiance, Vicky, 24. She and her partner want to be one of the first couples to marry in Christchurch, and have planned an 8.30am ceremony at Del Mar in Ferrymead.
A great day for those who want to get married, but previously have been unable to. As a supporter of the institution of marriage, I think it is excellent that more loving couples who want to make a life-long commitment to each other can no do so through marriage.
Christchurch churches remain divided over same-sex marriages, with some happy to perform ceremonies at their premises and others firmly opposed.
No Catholic churches or Anglican churches would perform the ceremonies or allow them in their churches, as “marriage is currently defined as between a man and a woman”.
Their churches, including the Cardboard Cathedral and the Church of the Good Shepherd, would not be used for same-sex weddings.
However, other denominations in Canterbury welcomed the new law. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and Hindus have left it up to individual parishes to decide whether to facilitate such weddings.
Crave Metropolitan Community Church spiritual leader Neil Hellewell said the church was “gay affirming” and would happily perform the ceremonies.
Durham St Methodist Church Reverend Mary Caygill said her parish was also in full support.
“The feeling of the congregation is that we want to be a place same-sex couples can come if they want to get married in a church.”
As it should be, it is up to each religion to decide for itself what their policy should be. Separation of church and state is a good thing.
Going into youth parliament not a single Youth MP could have predicted that there would be a walk-out during a fellow Youth MP’s speech.
Speaking on the recent passing of the Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill , Kura Waller Youth MP for Te Ururoa Flavell chose to take a stand against the bill.
In protest the majority of the Youth MPs walked out during Kura’s speech. This goes to show that Youth MPs really did receive the whole experience of being a real MP walk-out included. Like any regular politician she bravely carried on voicing her opinion despite staring at a now almost empty debating chamber.
I think those Youth MPs who walked out made a bad mistake, and undermine exactly what Parliament is for – to debate issues and views. Unless someone is up there advocating genocide or the like, you should listen to what they say, and if you disagree with it – respond to it.
Walking out is a sign of intolerance. I thought the speech by Kura Waller was pretty ridiculous as she claimed the Lion King said gay people can’t reproduce (it didn’t, and they can) and she also said she was never told by her kuia and koroua that being gay was OK – which is more hostile to gays than what the Pope recently said. So I thought her speech was pretty bad, but again the far far far better response would have been a Youth MP responding to the speech than an intolerant walkout.
Clips of Mr Williamson’s speech have had 1.5 million views on YouTube, and there were now versions with Spanish and Chinese subtitles. It was tweeted about by celebrities including DeGeneres, Stephen Fry, Perez Hilton and Ronan Keating.
A spokesman for Mr Williamson said they were waiting to hear back from the show’s producers for more details.
In his speech on Wednesday, Mr Williamson, the long-standing MP for Pakuranga, made humorous references to “a big gay rainbow” over his electorate and said the Marriage Amendment Bill was a positive step.
He has since been getting accustomed to his newfound status as a poster boy for gay rights, for which he has received praise from the United Kingdom, Australia and America, offers to stand in as Governor in several states as well as appearances on various television shows.
The already married Mr Williamson said the New York Times called him one of the few “openly gay” MPs in New Zealand. “It’s gone a bit far,” he said. “My wife wanted to know whether the New York Times knew something more than I did.”
Green MP Kevin Hague, who helped Labour’s Louisa Wall with the bill, said there were no sour grapes that Mr Williamson was getting all the attention.
“Louisa and I – and this is tongue in cheek – gave pretty good speeches too but at every stage we’ve been upstaged by straight National Party men. There was Paul Hutchison in the first reading, Chris Auchinvole in the second reading and now Maurice Williamson. But there’s no resentment about that. It’s funny, that’s all.”
He said some people might have been surprised by Mr Williamson, but in Mr Hague’s time heading the Aids Foundation in the 1990s he had worked with Mr Williamson as Associate Health Minister. “He has always been progressive on issues like gay rights, including supporting needle and syringe exchange when it was not popular.”
It is ironic about Hutch, Auchie and Maurice being the stand out speakers at each reading. They have the following in common:
All heterosexual men
All have children, nine between them
All are National MPs
All in their 60s
An unlikely trio to be poster boys for same sex marriage. 🙂
Well, the debate finished at 9.30 pm last night, but the celebrations carried on much longer. I got home at 4 am and finished the night with a quarter pounder at McDonalds – my first one in around a year and a half! It was badly needed to soak up the alcohol – and oh yeah it tasted great! Fuck, I’ve missed them 🙂
It is hard to put into words how much joy and happiness there was last night. Many issues just impact people indirectly or abstractly, but this was an issue which had massive importance to many many individual New Zealanders. You can’t really understand the significance of this law change to those affected, unless you are in their shoes. I was privileged enough to have a huge number of people come up to me last night and share their stories and emotions about what this means to them. It often goes to the core of self-worth, aspirations for a happy future etc. Thank you to everyone who shared with me – it was also great to meet so many previously unknown readers. Some of the exchanges were surreal – such as the young woman at McDonalds who just patted me on the head as she walked past our table and said “marriage equality rocks”. No idea who she was.
Last night reinforced for me my total lack of doubt that this law change was a good thing to do. On most issues, I have some doubts. I think charter schools should provide some better educational outcomes for some students – but I am of course not certain. Likewise I think having private shareholdings in SOEs will be better for the NZ economy – but it is not guaranteed. Almost all issues have trade-offs.
People go into politics with a genuine desire to make their country a better place. I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about what is the meaning of life etc. We only get to have 80 – 100 years. Over the course of history all but a few individuals are pretty insignificant So what should life be about? Is existence a bit pointless? In the end my conclusions are that our aim should be to make ourselves happy, and make other people happy. Life is here to be enjoyed.
I accept some people are unhappy at a conceptual level that gay couples will be able to marry. But for me that unhappiness is absolutely dwarfed by the immense joy this law change brings to gay and lesbian (etc) New Zealanders. I saw it last night in the gallery at Parliament, in the Grand Hall afterwards, down at S&M and Ivys on Cuba Street. They were not celebrating it as a political victory, but a personal one. It wasn’t like the enjoyment you get when the political party you favour wins an election. It was that personal sense of gaining of rights and equality – the symbolism and hope that they as an individual could one day get married. While the law change was a political act, don’t think that the motivations of those in favour were political – it was for many very personal.
For me personally, it has no effect. I am heterosexual. But I’m glad I have a well developed enough empathy that just seeing and sharing other people’s happiness made last night very special to me. As I said, you get involved in politics to try and make NZ a place where more people have happy lives.
From 1840 to 1867, homosexual activity in NZ wasn’t just illegal but was punishable by death. 145 years later, same sex couples can marry. We have come a very long way as a country.
Now the campaign is over, I also want to touch on the political side of the issue. They say that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Well that is true but in terms of this issue there are in fact many people who played an important role, and I want to touch on some of them.
First and foremost are Louisa Wall and Kevin Hague. They ran an inclusive positive campaign that was focused on the issue, and left party politics to one side. It can be a bit strange at first working with people from parties you spend half you time criticising, but they were nothing but warm, focused and professional. I regard them both as very good people, and the bill would not have passed with the support it had, without their leadership roles. I’ve seen many a good issue fail, because the political management of the campaign was sub-standard. Louisa and Kevin made a great team and their quiet calm persuasive styles convinced a number of MPs to support the bill on its merits.
On National’s side, many MPs made significant contributions. Hutch, Auckie and Maurice provided the standout speeches for each reading. PM John Key’s support was of incalculable value. The tone of the debate and the margin would have been very different without his support (even though I thinki it would have still passed). I must make special mention of three National MPs who contributed so much behind the scenes – Tau, Jami-Lee and Nikki. The three of them put in a huge amount of work to make sure the bill passed last night. I won’t get into the details of all the issues around votes, proxies, amendments, calls, scheduling and the like.
Also on the National side, two non MPs deserve special mention. Megan Campbell and Shaun Wallis showed you do not have to be an MP to make a positive and significant impact on politics. Megan’s contribution was immense – from lobbying MPs, to speech notes, to fact sheets, rebuttal points, procedural advice and much more. She must be the most effective lobbyist around at the moment – and she was working for free!
Shaun Wallis, and many other Young Nats, also contributed a great deal. If you’re a young person and wondering if young people can have an impact. Well consider that Young Nats have had a significant role in getting the VSM law passed, stopping the alcohol purchase age increasing to 20, and helping with the numbers on this law. When I was a Young Nat I don’t think Shane Frith and I achieved anything much beyond annoying Jim Bolger on a regular basis 🙂
Also kudos to all the youth wings who took part in the joint press statement for first reading and the joint press conference for second reading. The unity of youth on the issue was very powerful, and had great resonance with the media and MPs.
Andrew Burns did an amazing job with social media on the campaign. I was staggered by the reach of the campaign’s congratulatory message on Facebook. Within an hour of the vote, I think the message had reached almost half a million people and been shared by over 5,000 to all their networks.
Also Conrad Reyners had a difficult job, which he did so well. In a campaign the challenge isn’t just to get your supporters to do things – often it is to also stop them from doing things. A few overly enthusiastic supporters who go over the top with their rhetoric can damage your own side significantly (as opponents found out). Conrad and the wider campaign team ran a very disciplined, positive on message campaign.
Amusing end to the night was in McDonalds with Conrad close to 4 am, when we realised it was all over, and he said that he can now go back to hating me as fascist scum, and vice-versa him as a pinko commie 🙂
Life now goes back to normal, and life goes on for the country also – except in four months time expect an increase in the number of couples getting married in New Zealand!
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.
When the Marriage Equality Bill passes its final vote in Parliament, possibly tonight, it will signify a marked social change. Less than a decade ago Helen Clark’s Government dared not extend the definition of marriage to same-sex couples, offering them a legal equivalent called civil union. Since then, public opinion has undergone a sea change.
It has happened not only in New Zealand but in Australia, the United States and Europe. Quite suddenly, most people have come around to the view that homosexual commitments deserve equal recognition.
It is a change primarily linked to age. Younger people have grown up with gay and lesbian friends, class-mates and colleagues and see no reason not to allow their friends to marry.
In the US in 2004 opposition to same sex marriage was an electoral winner for the Republicans. In 2012 it was an electoral loser. And a poll in the US had just revealed that a majority of Republicans under 30 favour allowing same sex marriage with 51% in favour and 46% opposed.
The same poll also looks at views based on religion.
White evangelical Christians: 24% support/73% oppose
White non-evangelical Protestants: 54% support/43% oppose
So a majority of (white) American Catholics support same sex marriage.
Thoughtful contributions to our opinion pages have argued that marriage between a man and a woman is too important to social cohesion for its heterosexual definition to be lost. Marriage, they said, is not simply a declaration of love and commitment, it is the legitimation of procreation and the formation of families.
If its definition is to be detached from that purpose and marriage is to mean any form of human bond, what next, they asked. Might a commitment of more than two people have a right to the same recognition? Polygamy is permitted in some cultures. Why restrict the recognition to sexual relationships? One woman who lived with her sister wrote about their enduring non-sexual life together and wondered whether, in the name of equality, they too should be allowed to marry.
Marriage, as a professor of law pointed out on our pages yesterday, has been instituted in every culture, tribe and race since antiquity as the union of a man and a woman. It has never, until now, included a category of relationships that have no reproductive capacity and cannot provide a child with the care of two biological parents.
A fair summary of the better arguments against.
Those who worry that something of value will be lost can probably relax. Laws cannot change the ordinary meaning of words such as marriage, bride, groom, husband, wife, mother and father. Marriages for heterosexuals, including the blessings that believers obtain from churches, will not be diminished.
It remains to be seen whether same-sex couples marry in large numbers but their right to do so will be a significant achievement, another legal statement of equality. The gay community’s fight for the right to marry pays tribute, in its way, to the inherent value of the institution.
I agree. Couple aspiring to marry is a good thing.
The debate will be over tonight, thank goodness. It’s been great to be part of a team working for this change. I respect that some are opposed to the change, but the opposition to civil unions proved misplaced – and I think this will prove the same.
While there has been some passionate views on both sides, I think it reflects well on New Zealand that we can have this debates generally without the nastiness and rancour you see in some countries.
A Herald story also has a useful breakdown by party for the second reading:
* National: 44 per cent of MPs * Maori: 100 per cent * United Future: 100 per cent * Act: 100 per cent * Labour: 91 per cent * Green: 100 per cent * Mana: 100 per cent.
* National: 56 per cent of MPs * Labour: 9 per cent * New Zealand First: 100 per cent * Independent (Brendan Horan): 100 per cent.
From my point of view, it would have been nice to have the majority of National MPs voting in favour. But even if only 10 out of 59 National MPs were in favour, this law change would have occurred.
I blogged on Friday a collection of the more bizarre and offensives letters against same sex marriage. I thought they were pretty bad, but we have an unparalleled winner in this one:
And what about the current discrimination of paedophiles? It is a “natural” to them and genuine belief that it is beneficial to young children to experience sex at an early stage and certainly a condition that is definitely “not their fault”.
First compares homosexuality to pedophilia. The idea of consenting adults seems lost on him or her.
I have met paedophiles who very genuinely love children and can be very caring people. One, whom I’ve known since childhood and who turned himself in to the police then would not visit my home because he was worried that people in the community would smash my windows or attack me for “harbouring” him.
I really don’t think I can add a comment on here.
Deviations from the “norm” are apparent in many conditions. The Dunedin man Weatherston was treated abominably as a mentally ill person. I actually looked up the Oxford dictionary at the time and found “frenzy”means temporary insanity. Of course it was a dreadful tragedy for the victim and her family but, as matters are with psychiatric illness in N.Z. ,he could not have received medical attention anyway without having come to the attention of the police.
Now they effectively compares homosexuality as a deviation, just like Clayton Weatherston. In fact they are upset about how poor old Clayton was treated. You can’t make this up!
“Understanding” and compassion towards those in society with deviant conditions should apply to ALL conditions -not just homosexuals.”
So the problem is that homosexuals get too much understanding and compassion, and pedophiles and Clayton Weatherston don’t get enough.
I don’t think you could top this letter, if you tried.
Some of the e-mails and letters being sent to MPs and media are almost beyond belief. I don’t know how they think they will persuade people with such arguments. Here’s a collection of some of the worse.
I especially like the proposition that heterosexual marriage involves “painless” coitus and homosexual marriage involves painful anal sex and cunnilingus! In my experience around 99% of heterosexual women like cunnilingus and it doesn’t tend to be too painful. Also more anal sex is very common with heterosexual couples also.
This one is classy. If you vote “pro gay” your grandson may end up kissing a man in front of you or even worse having sex in your home with a man. Not because he is gay, but because he thinks you will approve of it!
And some quotes from assorted letters:
“Love in itself is not illegal, although the way it is expressed may be (rape, adultery, incest, euthanasia, abortion, murder).”
I didn’t know rape and murder were products of love!
“Trying to normalise and legalise a sexual perversion such as homosexuality can also cause a lot of harm in creating criminals out of normally law-abiding citizens or unfairly restricts their activities.”
“If a man does this to women he can be charged with sodomy. So how is it that there are people in the government who want to make this act between two people equal with marriage as it now stands? How can sodomy be illegal in one case and legal in another?”
Someone is not up to date with the law!
“THEN AGAIN…. What would happen if the Bill is passed into Law? What would happen if it was compulsory????
Oh yes, compulsion is the next step!
“It is my belief that homosexual and lesbian feelings are a usually a result of some neglect, dysfunction or abuse. Homosexual men commonly have had emotional distance or lack of love from their fathers; lesbians often have had a poor relationship with their mother. Also, sexual abuse is another factor.
Hear that lesbians – it is all the fault of your parents!
Huntley and Guzzardi are among 2000 same-sex couples predicted to make the journey to New Zealand to take marriage vows.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said for same-sex couples with a “strong desire” to marry, New Zealand would become an obvious choice.
“The fact that it is geographically and culturally close to Australia will encourage a large number to go to New Zealand to marry,” Croome said.
The expected trans-Tasman travel plans of couples tying the knot may mean Australia’s economy loses out on millions of dollars in wedding outlays.
More than 1300 Australian same-sex couples have already travelled overseas to legally marry in other countries. Those include Spain, Argentina and the United States.
Croome believes at least that many will marry in New Zealand, where there is no residency requirement.
“We’re talking about at least a couple of thousand couples, and each of those couples is spending the average wedding spend – which in Australia is about $36,000. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars,” Croome said.
2,000 extra weddings at $36,000 is $72 million. Of course on top of that, you may have lots in airfares. Air NZ could offer special flights and rates 🙂
One of the striking things about the submissions – both written and oral – received against the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was the very high degree of support that now exists for acknowledging and extending rights to same-sex couples through the mechanism of civil unions. This stands in stark contrast to the positions many of these same people took when the Civil Unions Bill itself was being debated.
There’s more: the now popular Civil Union Act passed its Third Reading by only 65-55, and just a couple of days before, a 3News poll found 46% of people in support, while 45% opposed.
In fact what all this shows is that Civil Unions followed the same path as Homosexual Law Reform and protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Certainly there is a group of people whose opposition to these measures is based on dogma of some sort, usually a religious one. These folk try to live their lives according to a particular code based on a set of rules (and believe that everybody else should also, regardless of belief). But probably the larger group of opponents is one whose opposition is motivated by fear: either of a general sort or of specific undesirable outcomes should the law reform succeed.
Opposition based on fear has always been temporary. Before each of these previous reforms a significant proportion of the population were led to believe that it would tear the fabric of our society in some awful way. But, surprise, surprise, the sky did not fall. And now it is only a very small group who believe gay sex should be illegal, who believe it should be legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or who believe same-sex couples should not be able to have their relationships acknowledged and protected.
Perhaps unsurprisingly I am writing about this because, once again, the same dynamics are at work in the opposition to marriage equality. There is a group of people, almost exclusively from particular religious faiths, who strongly and sincerely believe that marriage is fundamentally an institution that should be defined by their own particular dogma. They usually say the State has no right to determine who can marry, and seem oblivious even to other religious faiths whose dogma supports marriage equality. They are fundamentally theocrats and oppose pluralism, one of the basic ideas of modern society. Their position does not seem to be one that can be influenced by logic or evidence.
But the larger group of opponents is, as usual, one motivated by fear. Typically they have been encouraged to hold these fears by those who know better and who are exploiting them. Most of the ‘arguments’ made against marriage equality, including most of the amendments proposed to the Bill have been based on imaginary fears:
No celebrant will be forced to solemnise a marriage against their will. The law states that no celebrant is obliged to marry a particular couple. This has been the law since 1955 and the “right to refuse” has never been denied.
No church will be forced to use its religious space for same-sex weddings if it does not approve of them, or do anything at all differently.
Nobody will be forced to say anything different, or not to express their beliefs. In fact the Bill will repeal s.56, which, while never used, made it an offence to deny the validity of a legally-conducted marriage. Despite the histrionics of some, nobody will be sent to prison for their beliefs.
The ethical and legal obligations for teachers will not change in any way. There are professional requirements that influence how teachers can and cannot express their personal views to students. The Bill does not change these.
Children will not be “denied the right to their biological mother and father”. Married same-sex couples being able to adopt will almost exclusively affect children who are already being raised by same-sex couples (there are thousands, by the way) who currently have less security because of the relatively precarious legal status of their parents. The number of children made available for “stranger adoption” each year (who by definition are not being raised by their biological parents) is tiny. This Bill will have the effect that when the biological parents of a child choose adoptive parents, married same-sex couples can also be considered.
What will actually happen once this Bill passes is that some same-sex couples will choose to get married. Some of those will do so in churches that welcome them. Others will find independent celebrants they like, and who like them. People will be happier. And in time, as has happened everywhere else in the world where this reform has already occurred, most New Zealanders who currently oppose marriage equality will realise that their fears were groundless, and join the majority who already believe that, well, love is love.
What I found interesting that the when the Civil Unions Bill was being passed, public opinion was so evenly divided. Yet less than a decade later there is almost no opposition to civil unions, and in fact opponents of same sex marriage cite civil unions as so good, that there is no need to change the marriage law.
I’ll make a prediction. That by 2020, fewer than 20% of New Zealanders will be saying that they are opposed to same sex marriages being legal.
Some good speeches last night during the committee stages. No amendments got accepted but I would make the point that I had no problem with one of the amendments – it was more than it is un-necessary.
I believe no marriage celebrant should be forced to officiate at a marriage that they don’t wish to. As a matter of law, I don’t think they can be forced under the current Act. Section 29 talks about authorising, but not obliging. This means that for example Catholic priests can refuse to marry a divorced person.
There is also the practical issue that Kiwis are pretty common sense on these things. Why would anyone want to force an unwilling celebrant into marrying them, on what should be their happiest day. You’d be nuts to. So while there are some important principles at stake here, let’s not think that this will ever have practical impact.
Now the Select Committee said that there is a concern that possibly some church ministers could face an issue under the Bill of Rights Act. Bearing in mind the fact no Catholic priest has ever faced action for not marrying a divorcee, I think the possibility was remote. However they said let’s be explicit instead of implicit and give celebrants who represent a religion a clear statement they can not be forced.
One of the amendments yesterday was to extend that explicit exemption to all celebrants, not just religious ones. I didn’t have a huge problem with this. In fact I am a bit nervous about singling out celebrants who represent a religion as more deserving. So that amendment passing wouldn’t have been a major issue for me. But likewise if no celebrant had an explicit exemption, I’d be okay with that also as I believe the current S29 which only authorises but not obliges is enough protection. And finally of course it is all highly unlikely to ever be tested as no one wants an unwilling celebrant at their wedding.
Anyway some extracts from MPs speeches. Moana Mackey:
And can I just point out an issue of reality, which is that this is unlikely to be a problem. On one of the most important days of your life, I do not think that any couple is going to want to have someone presiding over their ceremony who does not want to be there and who is there only under the threat of legal action. That is why this has never been an issue since 1955. It has not been an issue since the Civil Union Act came in in 2004. I do not believe it is going to be an issue going on into the future.
And on the referendum issue:
Members mentioned Switzerland, where they do these issues by referenda all the time and as a result women did not get the vote until 1971—1971. I want to tell members the reasons that were given at the time were that men and women are fundamentally different. On the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs website they point out, saying … What the department said at the time—one of the reasons given as to why women should not be given the vote—was that “It wouldn’t promote equality because their natural modesty would stop them going out to vote when pregnant, and since rural women have more babies than those in town, this would give an unfair advantage to the latter.”
People can always find a reason to oppose change.
There is one final element that influenced me, and it was this. This bill takes nothing away from anybody. It actually takes nothing away. Those who argue that it does somehow reduce us as a society, in terms of our spirituality, certainly have a difficulty with me because there is nothing about my relationship, my family, my marriage that is negated or diminished in any way. I know that the institution of marriage has been developed for a long time, and no doubt will continue to develop. It is not set in a form that has always been the same. It has always developed. A bit like our society and our civilisation, this institution will also develop.
I have certainly struggled with this bill and given it a great deal of thought because it lies in the territory between two of my core political philosophies. My conservative instincts on one hand lead me to respect traditions and the wisdom of centuries. Marriage has traditionally been conceived as being between a man and a woman, and in the British and Christian traditions for centuries it has been between one single man and one single woman. That has been the case only because it has made perfectly good sense. Institutions and ideas change over time, but the conservative in me makes me hesitate before changing something that has served society well for so long. I certainly understand and respect the strength of feeling of many New Zealanders who feel that we should keep things the way we are. Running parallel to that, however, my guiding political belief is my commitment to freedom for people to live their lives in different ways with respect. Life is interesting, society is dynamic, and culture is diverse when people are free and have the liberty to live in different ways. It was 25-odd years ago when we agreed that the State should not outlaw homosexual acts and very few people disagree with that now. So I can understand why some gay couples would like to have access to the institution of marriage. People often ask “Well, why do they want marriage when they can have civil unions already?”. The answer is, of course, that words are important, which is why people on both sides feel so strongly about it. On balance, I have decided that for me freedom or individual conscience trumps tradition, so I am supporting this bill.
A nice contribution from Goldie, on balancing his beliefs.
My background has been that I was raised in the Christian faith in the Baptist church. Many of my relatives and friends from that background are disappointed that I am voting for this bill, and I understand their disappointment, but I would remind them that the Baptist church was born out of the idea of non-conformity. The early Baptists gathered together because they disagreed with aspects of the established church and suffered terribly for their individual beliefs. That tolerance of religious non-conformity, which English-speaking peoples had arrived at, certainly by the nineteenth century, was fundamental in establishing many of the freedoms and the liberties that we enjoy today.
Paul is a writer of history so knows his stuff.
It is highly likely the third reading will be on Wednesday the 17th of April.
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.
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 …
If one of your major arguments against same sex marriage is that it will lead to polygamous marriage also being made legal, it’s not a great idea to state that polygamy is more justified than same sex marriage, as a natural institution.
Interesting of the three sorts of polygamy, polygyny is most common – a man with multiple wives. As Liz points out it is already legal in around 60 countries. Polyandry is not really legal anywhere and exists in a just a few far flung places.
Also of interest is that the Nazis looked at making polygyny legal because WWII killed so many men. Their reasoning was that with such a shortage of men, some men have to have multiple wives so that all German women could have children.
Rob Portman is a Republican US Senator. He was short-listed to be the Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008 and 2012 and is seen as a credible contender for the GOP nomination in 2016. He has held numerous senior executive roles in the US Government and is an influential figure.
Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay. He said he’d known for some time, and that his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it was simply a part of who he is. Jane and I were proud of him for his honesty and courage. We were surprised to learn he is gay but knew he was still the same person he’d always been. The only difference was that now we had a more complete picture of the son we love.
At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.
I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.
Love and compassion is far more attractive than bile and hate.
One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn’t amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.
I’ve thought a great deal about this issue, and like millions of Americans in recent years, I’ve changed my mind on the question of marriage for same-sex couples. As we strive as a nation to form a more perfect union, I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.
Portman’s change of view is sincere, I have no doubt. There is a wider political aspect to this though. If the Republicans don’t moderate their positions on some of these issues, then they will find it harder and harder to win elections.
Now I can near guarantee you that those 70% of under 30s who support same sex marriage will not decrease as they get older. If anything, it will increase. So in just 10 years I expect we’ll see something like: