I’m running two guest posts by Young Nats this week. Tomorrow a guest post on the alcohol purchase age by Shaun Wallis, and today a guest post on marriage equality by Megan Hands.
Megan is the NZ Policy Chair for the Young Nationals. She studies at Lincoln University, is from a dairy farming background and “in her spare time you are likely to find Megan on the sideline of a rugby field, milking cows, or having a few quiet drinks at the local”.
I was born and raised in rural New Zealand, in what some might describe as a typical or traditional nuclear family, with a mother, father and three younger siblings.
I was raised a Catholic, was educated at a catholic college, and I go to church.
I haven’t got any gay family members.
I like men.
I vote National.
If you believe in stereotypes, you may think I’d oppose marriage equality.
Fortunately stereotypes are just made up expectations of who people are, or what they think.
Let me make this clear: I totally, completely and unreservedly support marriage equality.
I support marriage equality as a proud rural New Zealander
I am extremely proud of my warm upbringing as a rural New Zealander. I now work in a job that services the rural sector; and one day, I’d like to raise my children in rural New Zealand. I try not to make generalisations, but generally speaking rural people have tended to be quite conservative (on the outside at least).
Before I went to high school in the city, I don’t think I’d ever even come across the concept of people being in same sex relationships and I had certainly never met anyone who was openly gay. Probably the only thing that I am not so proud of rural New Zealand for is that there is certainly still an heir of traditionalism in some areas. Sometimes traditionalism is great, but when it preserves negative or harmful attitudes I tend to give it the two-finger salute.
I often put lack of tolerance down to a lack of understanding and exposure to diversity. Having lived in several different provinces I have observed that those closer to larger cities tend to be more tolerant and accepting. I also believe that the values of rural communities across New Zealand are consistent with values held by those of us who support marriage equality. Values of community togetherness, strong caring families, love, commitment and equality.
Last week my parents celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary. Their wedding anniversary is five days after my birthday, so every year I am reminded of what a great family I have and the fantastic example my parents have set. The success of my parents marriage strongly influences my perspective on what makes a good marriage. I want this opportunity for absolute commitment and mutual affection for both same and opposite sex Kiwi couples.
Marriage is about life-long love and commitment. It is the foundation of a family and about bringing two families together. It is not something that should be entered into lightly. It is the pinnacle of recognising your relationship in a way that is intimate yet deliberately public.
Nothing about life-long commitment, love, the joining or two families is exclusively heterosexual. Under the current law, because I am heterosexual I can choose to either recognise my relationship in law under the civil union legislation, or I can choose to get married. Friends in same sex relationships cannot choose to enter into a marriage in the same way that I can simply because they are gay.
This is wrong. Why would anyone wish to deny couples the joy of standing in front of their friends and family and professing their love for one another; undertaking to an union of shared aspirations and shared promise to experience the joys and burdens of life.
I support marriage equality as a National Party member
A lot of people have asked me why I am so passionately in support of marriage equality if I am straight. My answer is simple. I walked into the local National Party office in 2007 to join up because I believe in the principles of equal citizenship and equal opportunity. Sometimes these principles are merged in the phrase ‘one law for all’. ‘One law for all’ does not have exceptions – it’s not ‘one law for all’ except for this minority, or this other minority; it’s ‘one law for all’ – no ifs, no buts, no apologies. I don’t, or never will, reside from standing up for every Kiwi to be given the equal opportunity to succeed, commit and enjoy life in our great country.
But you’re Catholic you say?
The Catholic faith teaches us to love thy neighbour as yourself or do unto others as you would have them do unto you; to be tolerant and accepting; and that God will be the judge of our actions rather than our fellow men on earth.
The second argument is that I believe that we should always legislate for a secular society. The moment we legislate to be consistent with the teachings of a particular faith we erode freedom of religion. To be very clear, the Marriage Equality (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill does not compel churches to permit same sex marriages if they choose not to. In the same way, if churches wish to marry same sex couples they will be free to do so. This Bill gives all churches freedom of choice to determine whether they choose to permit same-sex marriages in accordance with the views of their congregation. I stand up for equal opportunity for all religious institutions.
Every Kiwi deserves the right to marry the person they love. Marriage is a union between two individuals seeking to build a loving household and economic partnership. It is a union of shared aspirations and shared promise to experience the joys and burdens of life. Society is stronger when two individuals make vows to commit and support each other. By allowing more New Zealand couples to have access to the institution of marriage, we can strengthen marriage as an institution. More committed couples seeking to undertake vows of obligation to one another will only enhance the standing of marriage in the community. I support marriage equality because I am Catholic. I support marriage equality because I’m a rural girl. I support marriage equality because I am a Kiwi.
Thanks to Megan for the post. Comments are welcome of course, but please focus on the issue and arguments, not on anything else.
Incidentally I’m generally happy to run guest posts from people – even on issues where I disagree with them. This particular issue will be on the backburner for a few months, but happy to have posts from both sides once the bill is reported back from select committee (assuming it passes first reading tonight).