Hansard and Journals
Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill — Third Reading
[Sitting date: 17 April 2013. Volume:689;Page:9482. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill
LOUISA WALL (Labour—Manurewa) : Tēnā koutou katoa. I move, That the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill be now read a third time. My observation in my time in the House has been that there are few occasions when the public gallery is full to overflowing. This bill has seen a full gallery at the first and second readings, and again tonight. My only other experience of that has been Treaty settlement legislation recording the agreement reached between Māori and the Crown. In both instances the parties affected are minority groups that have been marginalised. They have been dealt with unjustly under the law. Steps are being taken to right the wrongs they have suffered, and it shows me that this process matters. Having Parliament recognise and address injustice and unfairness matters to those affected by it. It is the start of the healing process.
This third reading is our road towards healing and including all citizens in our State institution of marriage, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Although our focus has been on Aotearoa, it is important to remember we are one country that is part of a global community discussing marriage equality. Twelve countries have already been through this process. The US President has declared his support unequivocally. The Queen has recently signed a Commonwealth charter that explicitly opposes all forms of discrimination, which she describes as emphasising inclusiveness. The UK, led by its Prime Minister, has introduced legislation.
But marriage equality is only one issue. There is still a lot of work to be done to address discrimination against our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex—or LGBTI—communities. Closer to home, many of our Pacific neighbours still criminalise homosexuality; so too do the countries of our new migrant communities. We need to understand these heritage identities and how they contribute to this debate. As the indigenous people of Aotearoa, we can acknowledge that takatāpui have always been part of our history and culture, and that is the case for many indigenous people around the world. Fa‘fafine, ‘akava‘ine, fakaleiti, and mahu vahine are words that go back in time to identify our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities. They are part of our Pacific heritage and need to be acknowledged.
And we need to learn from history. Marriage laws have continually been used as a tool of oppression. The Nuremberg laws in 1935 prohibited marriage between German nationals and Jews. The South African Immorality Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act prohibited marriage and sexual contact between races until they were repealed in 1985. Forty US states prohibited interracial marriage. Women lost all property rights and their identity upon marriage. Excluding a group in society from marriage is oppressive and unacceptable. There is no justification for the prohibitions of the past based on religion, race, or gender. Today we are embarrassed and appalled by these examples, and in every instance it was action by the State. This is not about Church teachings or philosophy. It never has been. It is about the State excluding people from the institution of marriage because of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and that is no different from the actions taken in these historical examples.
Principles of justice and equality are not served if the key civil institution of marriage is reserved for heterosexuals only. In the landmark Ontario decision, Justice LaForme wrote: “Any ‘alternative status’ that nonetheless provides for the same financial benefits as marriage in and of itself amounts to segregation. This case is about access to a deeply meaningful [social] institution—it is about equal participation in the activity, expression, security, and integrity of marriage. Any ‘alternative’ to marriage, in my opinion simply offers the insult of formal equivalency without the … promise of substantive equality.” Ever since Brown v Board of Education in 1954, the “separate but equal” doctrine has been seen as segregation and contrary to achieving equality.
I want to emphasise again what this bill does not do. It does not legalise criminal offences. In fact, it is clear the definition proposed in this amendment is a union of two people only. It does not force any minister or celebrant to marry a couple against his or her wishes. Section 29 remains in force and has been strengthened by the Government Administration Committee amendment. It does not change adoption laws. Gay couples have adopted children for many years, but the law has not recognised that parenting reality. Children of same-sex relationships have not been allowed to have both parents’ names on their birth certificate. The injustice and pain of this was made clear by an email I received, and I am able to share it with the House.
It reads: “My partner and I had been together for 7 years when we decided to start a family. When our daughter was born, my partner’s name was on her birth certificate as her birth mother. When our daughter was 13, my partner was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We talked to our solicitor and found out that the only way I could adopt our daughter was if the relationship with her mum was legally terminated. How could we possibly do that to a child who was faced with her mum dying? Instead I applied for, and was granted, guardianship. When my daughter turned 18, the guardianship expired. It was only when my own parents died that it struck home with me that my daughter and I had no legal relationship, despite me having been her parent all her life. We talked it over and I applied to adopt her. Fortunately, all this happened before she turned 20, because I believe it might have been too late. It was the right thing to do but still hard on her. She gets a new birth certificate and her mum no longer legally exists. This is just so ridiculous and so wrong. If your bill had been law when my partner was still alive, then we could have married and our daughter would have both her parents recorded as such.”
Under this bill both women could have been spouses and recorded on their daughter’s birth certificate. Without this bill that is a privilege limited to heterosexual married couples only.
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.
There is another similarity between this bill and Treaty settlement legislation: the quality and tone of the debate within this House. I believe that is the result of our effective cross-party working group with Tau Henare and Kevin Hague. Conrad Reyners, national spokesperson for the Campaign for Marriage Equality, was also involved, and with Cameron, Jackie, Rawa, Tony, Natalie, Kurt, and Andrew, has kept the issue alive and relevant. I am also grateful to Megan Campbell, Shaun Wallis, and David Farrar for their support and work with MPs, and my executive assistant, Mereana Ruri, for helping coordinate this activity. I would also like to acknowledge the leadership across the House, from the Prime Minister, who expressed his support early on, as did the leader of the Labour Party, David Shearer, and we have seen leadership by John Banks, Peter Dunne, Hone Harawira, Pita Sharples, and Tariana Turia. I also acknowledge the Greens, who from the outset have taken a supportive position as a party. For them it was not a conscience vote but a manifesto commitment.
There are many individuals and groups within our communities and churches who have continually addressed the facts and made it real. I particularly thank the youth wings of all political parties and student unions around the country. The messages have remained positive. I am very proud to be a member of a community that has stood up to be counted with such dignity and reason. A personal thanks to everyone who has contacted me by email and through Facebook, particularly Craig Young and those in the community offering support and often just saying thanks.
Finally, ngā mihi aroha ki a koutou te whānau, and, to my darling Prue, thank you for your work and for sharing this journey with me. Nothing can counteract the very real negative consequences of not passing this bill, but nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill. It is an honour to represent your country and the people of New Zealand. I am proud to be a member of this 50th Parliament, which will continue New Zealand’s proud human rights tradition. I thank my colleagues for simply doing what is fair, just, and right. Kia ora.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) : I too will be taking a split call with my colleague Jami-Lee Ross. It is sort of the young and the vibrant versus the old and the boring.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Which one’s which?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Members of the House will be forced to choose which one is which.
I want to, first of all, congratulate Louisa Wall on this bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, and I want to say that the good news about spending years in this Parliament is that you learn to deflect all of the dreadful sort of fire and brimstone accusations that people say are going to happen. 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.
Hon Amy Adams: Cel-i-bacy.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Cel-i-bacy—OK. We will go with celibacy, OK. 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, and 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 Celsius, and I would last for just on 2.1 seconds. It is hardly eternity—what do you think?
I also heard some more disgusting claims about adoption. Well, I have got three fantastic adopted kids. I know how good adoption is, and I have found some of the claims just disgraceful.
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: 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, for neither love nor money—I just cannot. I cannot understand why someone would be opposed.
I understand why people do not like what it is that others do. That is fine; we are all in that category. But I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this bill right now. I give you a watertight, guaranteed promise. The sun will still rise tomorrow. Your teenage daughter will still argue back at you as if she knows everything. Your mortgage will not grow. You will not have skin diseases or rashes or toads in your bed. The world will just carry on. So do not make this into a big deal. This bill is fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on.
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 have seen 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.”
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) : I thank my colleague Maurice Williamson for allowing me to share his time in the third reading debate on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. Tonight I am voting for love, for equality, for opportunity, and, most of all, for freedom. I am voting tonight to give all New Zealanders the same opportunity that I had when I married my wife: the freedom to marry the person I love. It is a very simple concept, but one that has been denied to so many people for so long.
We are all fortunate that we sit in this House of Representatives and have a democracy that values individual freedoms and individual rights, a democracy that values New Zealanders having the ability to determine for themselves what they do with their own lives. Many arguments can be made both for and against same-sex marriage, but when I was considering how I should vote on this issue, the question was never why same-sex couples should be allowed to marry; the question was always why on earth they should not be allowed to marry, and that I cannot explain.
I cannot explain why two people of the same sex should not be allowed to marry. It just seems daft to me that we could deny two people the right to marry simply because they love someone who is of the same gender. I have yet to hear anyone put forward a rational and a principled reason why it is necessary to deny two people the right to marry simply because of their sexual orientation. It is wrong.
Recently, on a local Botany Facebook website, a constituent made the wise observation that “Marriage is about love. Love between two men or two women is equal to the love of a man and a woman, and therefore they should have equal rights.”, and that is what it all boils down to. No one needs to be dismayed or disappointed because two loving people might soon be able to get married. No one needs to feel threatened or saddened because something that is different and something they are not used to might take place around them. The reality is that unless you are in a same-sex relationship and considering getting married, you are not affected by this bill in any way at all. Nobody gets hurt when gay couples say they are married, but gay couples who do want to get married are harmed when they are arbitrarily stopped by the State from doing so and from expressing their love in the way that they want to.
This also is not an issue that should be a referendum issue. I do not fear a referendum in any way; I simply do not believe that it is right to determine an issue that affects only minorities by way of a referendum. If that was the case, I doubt that New Zealand would have given women the right to vote when it did, that this country would have legalised abortion when it did, or that this country would have decriminalised sex between two consenting males when it did. Minority rights issues are not referendum issues.
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.
The time for this legislation has come. I believe that the author of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, Louisa Wall, and the Government Administration Committee have arrived at a sensible point—the sensible point where marriage equality will soon be extended to all New Zealanders in a way that in no way impacts on the rights and freedoms of anyone else. Tonight Parliament is doing absolutely the right thing, and I wholeheartedly commend this bill to the house.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) : In 1977 Harvey Milk was elected as the first openly gay city councillor in the United States. It was a landmark moment in the representation of minorities in politics. Tragically, Harvey Milk was assassinated by a fellow councillor just 11 months later. He was a strong advocate for the rights of gay people but also for all minorities. Before his death he spoke of the importance of his being elected, because it gave hope to young gay people that there was a better tomorrow for them compared with the discrimination and bullying that they were getting in their home towns. He noted that this hope was not just important if you were gay; it was important if you were poor, or black, or disabled, or old. As he put it: “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you … and you … and you … Gotta give em hope.” He told the story of the young gay man from Altoona, Pennsylvania, who rang him after he was elected, simply to say thanks for what he was doing.
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. Interestingly, there were 44 votes against the bill that day, as well. The good news is that today there are a lot more MPs in Parliament than there were back then, and I want to thank MPs from all the parties who are voting in support of this legislation today. This is a true MMP conscience vote. It has made for some unlikely political bedfellows—note the word “political” in there. I want to pay tribute to Tau Henare and Jami-Lee Ross in particular. It is quite likely that is the only time I will ever say that sentence, so I will say it again. I want to particularly pay tribute to Tau Henare and Jami-Lee Ross in particular, and to all members of the cross-party working group. All members from around this House who are supporting this Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill are doing the right thing. I also want to pay tribute to the Campaign for Marriage Equality, LegaliseLove, and the thousands of others who have got us to this point today.
As it was then in 1986 with homosexual law reform and again in 2003 with civil unions, it is a Labour MP who is moving this important social change. Today I congratulate Louisa Wall. There is no doubt that we can all see how it is that Louisa made it to the top on the sporting field—“straight up the guts” determination. One of the many, many emails that MPs got in the early stages of this bill was from a person bemoaning what would happen if the bill passed. After several paragraphs he reached his triumphant point: “And who will teach the children about rugby and netball?”. I think we might have that one covered, Lou, eh? I am proud that this bill is being promoted by a Labour MP and supported by the vast majority of our caucus, because fundamentally it is about Labour values: fairness, justice, and community.
At its heart this bill is about family and strengthening families. There are few parents who do not think about their children’s weddings. They are social occasions that mark a change in the relationship of parents and their children. They can make a dent in the bank balance, but they are pivotal moments. The importance of this bill to strengthening families was beautifully articulated in the submission made by Gus Hodgson to the Government Administration Committee, and I will quote him briefly: “This bill means that my parents can support all four of their sons if we marry the person we love and who loves us, not three out of four. My parents have four sons. They love us equally. Likewise this House should demonstrate an equal love for its public too.” Angus went on: “My mother once told me that she doesn’t have any criteria for the people her sons might fall in love with. She would welcome any person into her home if they love her son too. That was an incredibly powerful message for me to receive.” So when this bill passes, it will be a victory for families.
I want to briefly mention those people who brought us civil unions. They were an important step towards fairness and equality. They gave recognition to relationships, an alternative to the institution of marriage, and equal rights under almost every law. I am proud to have been part of that campaign, and I salute the hard work that went into it. I want to particularly recognise Lianne Dalziel, David Benson-Pope, Tim Barnett, Katherine Rich, and others for their work on that bill.
Today we take further steps towards equality. That value of equality is a fundamental value for me and for the Labour Party. We believe that we are all born equal, and that it is our job to ensure that equality exists in this world. It is the same value of equality that underlies this bill that also motivates me and Labour to fight every day for the 270,000 New Zealand children who live in poverty. It is the same value that says that allowing someone to be paid $13.75 an hour to look after our grandparents is morally wrong. It is the same value that says that every person, no matter who they are or where they were born, has a right to an education that will allow them to achieve their potential. Equality, a fair go for everyone, is at the heart of Labour values and the heart of this bill.
This bill is also about inclusion. Quite simply, we will not succeed as a country or a society if we continually find reasons to exclude people. The only place that takes us to is division and hatred. Why on earth would we want to stop a couple who love each other and who want to make a commitment to one and other from doing that? Why would we want to exclude some people from a cherished social institution? As David Do said in his moving and eloquent submission to the select committee, this is an issue for people of all ethnic backgrounds. This is what he said: “Speaking as an Asian New Zealander it might be easy to think that in this debate Europeans are the only ones who want marriage equality, and Asians and Pacific Islanders don’t. I just can’t accept that. I know it’s not true, and it goes against our history and the values we are proud of as New Zealanders.” David went on: “There are many Asian New Zealanders right now who feel trapped because of issues with their culture, religion, upbringing, or family circumstances, along with their sexual orientation. It can be an incredibly difficult situation to be in, but this Parliament can help change that.” Tonight we take further steps towards the inclusive society that New Zealand can and should be. This legislation makes us a better country. Many supporters of the bill have stressed that in the end this bill is about love, and that is not a topic that politicians get to talk about very often. Former Prime Minister Norman Kirk used to say that New Zealanders wanted a job, a place to live, someone to love, and something to hope for. Well, we cannot guarantee you someone to love, but I think we are putting the right incentives in place.
As we have seen with previous advances in the recognition of the rights of New Zealanders, there have been shrieks and howls about how society would end when women got the vote and when homosexuality was decriminalised, and, in the end, as Maurice Williamson has eloquently told us, the sky has not fallen in. I respect the right of people to hold different views on this legislation. People with religious beliefs have continued to have the freedom to exercise those. This should continue, and it will. Nothing about this legislation will affect anyone else’s marriage. Husbands will still call their wives their wife, and vice versa. I will let you all in on a secret: we have all been calling our partners husbands for years. Normally, it is when I am being told off.
I want to pay tribute to the thousands of New Zealanders who have worked to get support for this bill. It has energised and politicised many people. At an event in Auckland last weekend a straight Pākehā woman in her 30s said she made her first ever submission to Parliament in favour of this bill. Tonight is a victory for those people, their friends, and their families. But for all the victories that there are to celebrate when this bill passes—the victory for families, for fairness, for equality, for inclusion, for commitment, and for love—there is to my mind a greater win. If there is a 14-year-old young man in Dunedin who is watching this, like I did 27 years ago, and he is wondering how he will cope with being a bit different from his mates, and he is going to struggle a bit over the next few years, today goes some way to fulfilling Harvey Milk’s plea. This bill is not going to solve all his problems. It is not going to prevent him from being discriminated against. It is not going to prevent him from getting hurt. But it will do something of huge value, because what we will do in this House tonight is give him some hope. Because tonight hope has won.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) : New Zealand First believes in the use of public referenda and we have for a long time. Some will recall that in 1997 we put a referendum to New Zealand voters on a savings regime similar to those of Australia or Singapore. Sadly, it was voted down, and 16 years later we are broke and in the clutches of foreign banks and foreign money. We could have just rammed a bill through Parliament, but we went and took it to the people, and those are our bona fides on the issue of a referendum.
We have spent the better part of a year debating Ms Wall’s bill, and, sadly, the public are not much the wiser for it. In fact, there has hardly been a debate. What we have had is a small yet vocal minority telling the rest of New Zealanders that this is a law change that everyone wants and that anyone who disagrees has got to be a bigot. Then on the other side of the so-called debate we have got those who would like to see the State police themselves police morality in the bedroom. The truth is that most New Zealanders sit somewhere in the middle. That might be tawdry and uncomfortable, but it is the way a society works.
Some support the change; others do not. But their reasons for supporting or opposing it are never as sensationalist or extreme as some on either side would have us believe. No one really knows what side the majority of the public opinion sits on. Some claim, as Ms Wall and her supporters have, that there is a huge groundswell for change. Well, is that true? If so, how do we know? As far as we are aware, the issue never came up at any of the meetings that we held in the 3 years out from the last election. Nobody lobbied us and no journalists called to ask where we sat on the issue. There were no words spoken on the campaign trail about same-sex marriage whatsoever.
It is not the issue—and Ms Wall has every right to draft a bill and present it to this House—but a lot of the bile in this issue would not be present had the process been different. It came upon us, this bill, out of the blue. The manner of this bill’s emergence, the process by which it got before Parliament, needs to be publicised. It is why many fair-minded Kiwis feel confused. They are confused because Ms Wall and her supporters have not told them how it happened. Why did they not go to the last election, in the campaign, and say up front: “We will introduce same-sex marriage.”, instead of using some woolly language like: “We will review relationship and property law.”? Who up in the gallery thinks that that is what they wanted? The only explanation has to be that they were afraid. They were afraid that their party supporters might not like it. We can make all the pretentious, glorious statements tonight, but, in the end, it is what the people think.
In fact, Ms Wall, sad to say, was not even up front with her own party. The normal process in the Labour Party—
Hon Member: Come on.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —I am coming on with the facts here—is for members’ bills to be taken to the Labour whips’ 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 follow it. It is a fact. They can make all the statements they like now, but the first the Labour leader’s office knew of it was seeing it on the list of bills lodged. That is a fact. So tell us why the Labour whips’ office and caucus were not told 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. From—[Interruption] Yes, after the event. That is true—after the event.
Moana Mackey: We were there.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: So you were in the whips’ office? No, you were not, and that is a fact. My evidence is that of somebody who was, and it suggests that the Labour Party was hijacked on this issue.
Ms Wall, what do the people of Manurewa think? What do the people out there in South Auckland, in Manurewa, think? Well, there is utter silence now, but this is about democracy and representation. That is why so many Labour supporters are telling us that they support our referendum stance—because they feel they have never been asked, that somehow they have been left out; even more think that somehow they have been cheated.
This is supposed to be a democracy. This is supposed to be a place where the people’s voice matters. This is supposed to be a Parliament where one would be proud to face up to their caucus and say: “I think this bill should come before Parliament.” Oh no, no, I am sorry; that is what they are saying now because they could not say anything else, in the same way that many National members over there are going to vote for this bill knowing full well that the so-called protection for religious dissidents, whether they are celebrants or otherwise, is not in this legislation. If a Church deems someone’s objection to be wrong, then that person could be punished. That is all they asked for. Is it too much for that to happen?
That is why we call this House the House of Representatives, representing not ourselves but the people. Here we are as a Parliament about to circumvent any expression of public opinion yet again. Why? Do they think that if the public is asked, they might lose? I do not know, but I am prepared to trust the public. I do not wish to hear from polls; I want to know exactly what the public think. On Campbell Live tonight, I think the poll that it had, strange as it was—and I do not think it is remotely scientific—had 78 percent saying no and 22 percent saying yes. What say it is wrong by 20 percent? The question is this: what do the public think? And why are there so many people in this Parliament prepared, when it suits them, to circumvent the public’s will, when all the bile and venom of this issue would not have been in Parliament had we asked New Zealanders: “Well, what do you think?”.
Shortly we go to Anzac Day. It is about democracy, and it is about an inclusive democracy that they were fighting for, not just one vote every 3 years, and that is my point. We are prepared to respect as a party, in New Zealand First, that we have many divergent views within the party. We respect that. That is why we are prepared to all compromise and say as one group: “Well, let’s ask New Zealanders, for, after all, they should be the final arbiters.” This is a rule not for us; it is a law for them.
We object to the people being taken for granted. We object to the view that because we are here and we have temporary hold of the reins, what Joe Public thinks is of no import whatsoever. For those who wish to ignore this message, then let me give this clear warning: there is a day of reckoning coming, electorally. The manner of this vote tonight—laugh now and cry later. The manner of this vote tonight is a game-shifter, and it will be reflected in the next election results. There are some issues that dissipate and there are some issues that stay around a long time. All around New Zealand tonight and in the next few days people will be saying: “Well, if that’s the way they think—that our view does not matter—then I will never ever vote for them again.” If one looks at the huge social and economic issues this country presently faces and the desperate need for better solutions to them, then some in this House have seriously sacrificed their colleagues and their party for a narrow, undemocratic—worthy or unworthy, I do not know—expression. When the political wilderness years come, do not say you were not warned.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : I will be splitting my call with the Hon Nikki Kaye. I did have a speech prepared, but that speech from Winston Peters shot it to bits. Here are 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.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You heard what the member said. He must be looking in the mirror. But he must apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Are you saying such an expression is parliamentary?
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Are you saying that the expression he used is parliamentary?
Mr SPEAKER: I am certainly not ruling it out as unparliamentary.
Hon TAU HENARE: So it is OK for New Zealand First to have bills in the ballot. That is democracy. But when Louisa Wall puts one in the ballot, that has to go to a referendum! How the hell is any country in the world supposed to operate in a system like that? Who decides whether or not there should be a referendum? Him? I hope not. I hope not, because we would still be in the 1880s.
I feel sad that I was a member and even a deputy leader under that man. I used to look up to him. But I tell you what: that speech tonight is nothing more than pandering to the 10 percent on either side of this argument. It is nothing more than pandering to those racist, rednecked people who just love to get on the email.
I want to say that I have been appalled with some of the behaviour of those for the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill and of those against it, because I for one do not think that those who are against the bill are homophobic just because they are voting against it. It is their right to vote against it, and I will back my colleagues who vote against it all the way; I just do not agree with them. And they are going to lose tonight.
However, to quickly run through what I was going to say, it is time. The sky did not, and will not, fall in. How does it affect me or anyone else in this House and in this country? It does not. It just does not. Think about it for a minute. If the institution of marriage is so sacrosanct, then why the hell are so many people getting a divorce? I do not say that in a facetious manner. If it does belong to the Church, as I have been told by so many people on the email, then why do we have legislation outlining who can and who cannot? If there was no legislation, I would back the Church 100 percent. But it is not the Church’s. It actually belongs to the Government. It actually belongs to this Parliament. It is a creature now of Parliament. It is not a creature any more of either the Bible or the Church.
Lastly, I want to say that it is actually about the equality of opportunity. All we are doing—we are not forcing anybody to do anything in any way, shape, or form. What we are doing is offering people the opportunity of equality, and either they take it or they do not. That is up to them. It is not up to me. It is not up to any one of us in this House.
I want to thank my cousin Kath, who unfortunately died some months ago. She would have been here yelling from the rooftops, and I seriously mean that she would have been yelling from the rooftops, because that is what she was like. I hope she is finally proud of her cousin, and I am sure she was in other ways.
Finally, a message to all LGBTI—and I finally got that out. My message to you all is welcome to the mainstream. Do well. Kia ora.
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister for Food Safety) : Tonight I hope that we pass this bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, so that same-sex couples can finally marry in New Zealand. It is time that we passed this bill. It has been nearly 30 years since we passed the Homosexual Law Reform Act. Three decades later—20,000 submissions—121 MPs tonight have the power to finally vote to give all New Zealanders the freedom to marry the person they love. This change will be hugely positive for our country. 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.
I am proud to be the MP for Auckland Central. I represent Grey Lynn, Ponsonby, Rocky Bay—a huge gay and lesbian community. But do you know what? You may think that is why I am voting for this bill, but actually I support this bill because it is the right thing to do. I support this bill because it is absolutely the right thing for our country. I support those MPs in conservative electorates who have stood up and are voting for this bill because they also think it is the right thing for our country. I want to acknowledge Chris Auchinvole and Paul Hutchison. They have shown us in this debate the true power of conscience. When Paul said: “I … cannot construct a strong enough intellectual, moral, health, or … spiritual argument against it.”, he struck a chord with so many New Zealanders, because he showed us openness and he showed us compassion for people. Our Parliament can be very proud that this vote is actually less about political divides and more about religious and generational divides. We have a lot to be proud of in our country. We must acknowledge that the freedoms that we have are not the same freedoms that other countries have. As Louisa has said, there are 55 countries in the Commonwealth that still criminalise homosexuality. That must change. The world will be watching New Zealand tonight. Let us vote to show it that our country values freedom for all of our people.
Louisa, thank you for your commitment to the cause. You have worked across party lines. You have personally helped ensure that this debate has been more constructive and more positive than in the past. Thank you to you, Kevin, as well, for your contribution. Thank you to Tau and Jami-Lee Ross as well. I want to acknowledge the other liberal Nats who have walked before me for their contributions. Katherine Rich and Marilyn Waring, thank you as well. It is lovely to see you here tonight. Megan Campbell, Shaun Wallis, your tireless efforts will not be forgotten. Georgina Beyer and Tim Barnett, I acknowledge you as well here tonight.
This bill is about strengthening families. The difference to people’s lives will be real and positive. This is about the daughter who asked her mother yesterday: “Can I finally be the flower girl at Auntie Emma’s wedding?”. The answer is yes. This is about the young man who has not yet come out to his friends having the courage to do so. This is about the couple who have been together for 30 years finally getting the chance to say “I do.” This is about a large group of New Zealanders holding their heads a little higher when they walk down the street. Colleagues, it is time that we passed this bill. It is the right thing to do. Please vote for freedom. Please vote for this bill.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green) : It is time. In one of the many messages that I have received on the 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 Flinn, who called publicly for homosexuals like me to be put to death. Over the years I have campaigned hard for the right of our communities not to be outsiders any more and to assume a full place in New Zealand society. With every new reform, the same group uses the same strategy of raising fears of terrible consequences that always fail to materialise.
There would be few New Zealanders today who would support re-criminalising sex between men. The cost of being outsiders is enormous. The stigma associated with our “inferior” status is associated with substantially higher rates of suicide, depression, HIV risk, violence, and other risks to our health and well-being. One submitter called Vinnie wrote: “If there was greater acceptance when I grew up, I would not have tried to kill myself. I potentially would not have missed out on years of a quality relationship with my family. I would not have lost 95 percent of my friends when I told them I was gay.”
Another person called Robert said: “I have lived my life partly in private until the last decade or so when acceptance of gay people in our beautiful New Zealand has increased. I have no doubt that the bill will be passed and I am pleased for it to be happening in my lifetime. While I am not in my younger years, it will still allow me and my partner to marry and have equal rights. I have longed for this for a very, very long time. My only sadness is that both of my parents have now passed and it would have been such a huge joy to have them at my wedding.”
Opponents of this bill have been talking about two conflicting ideas of what marriage is about. The idea they have is the conjugal model, in which the point of marriage is to enable procreation. They say that we supporters have a partnership model, in which marriage is about celebrating and reinforcing the love two people have for each other. They are right. That is what we believe. Sure, children are important for some marriages, but more than anything else marriage is about affirming, reinforcing, and celebrating the love that two people have for each other. It is also about joining two families together and recognising the value of that commitment to our whole society.
That is why this bill is about so much more than achieving equality under the law, which is a basic human right that has been denied us until this day. It is about saying these lives matter. Our society is big enough for us all. With this bill our Parliament stretches out its arms to my communities and says: “Our society is big enough for you too. You belong unequivocally and without having to compromise who you are.”
When the debate started I thought that all of the people like Richard Flinn had, thankfully, gone. The early comments from opponents were refreshingly free of fire and brimstone. There is no doubt that New Zealand has grown up over the past 27 years, as we have become a more modern, vibrant, and pluralistic society. But as the debate has worn on, we have seen a re-emergence of a hard core whose opposition to this bill has lost its veneer of reasonableness. Their problem with this bill is that they believe that we gay and lesbian people are morally inferior. They do not want to include us as full participants in New Zealand society. They recognise correctly what full legal equality—this signal—means, and they do not like it.
That is why we have seen people with placards declaring that gay people are mentally ill and less than human. That is why we have seen Family First’s campaign, firstly, of fear and misinformation and, latterly, of standover tactics and blackmail. That is why we have seen the Catholic Action Group, just like Richard Flinn, writing to all MPs and telling us that homosexuals are worthy of death and then describing in great detail the eternal agony we should expect to experience in hell. They have tried to attract more people to their cause by scaring people with imaginary consequences—people will marry their pets, ministers will be thrown in prison, and people will not be able to call each other husband and wife any more. Just like every time before, those fears will not be realised.
The consequences of this bill will be that same-sex couples will marry. Transsexual people will no longer have to divorce. Prejudice and violence will be undermined. The world will be a better place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender New Zealanders, and absolutely no one at all will be any worse off. As Brian Donnelly, a great New Zealand First member, said: “Your own candle will burn no dimmer if you help to light ours.” That is what has happened in every country—now 12 countries—that has legalised same sex-marriage before us.
Here are some words from Alicia, another young New Zealander: “Imagine you are me for a second, or any other queer teenager in New Zealand, or maybe you are a bit younger, 15 or so, just starting to come to grips with who you are. All around you, your family and religious community, perhaps even your friends, are buzzing with talk about a bill which affects you more than you dare to let on. What they say makes it clear that if they knew who you were, what you really are, they would not accept you. There is a reason so many of us have considered suicide an acceptable way out at some point, and this is it.” She then says: “What your support of this bill has meant is immeasurable. I watched the first reading live and I was in tears by the end of it. For me your support was overwhelming confirmation that I am no less of a person in the eyes of those who lead our country because of my sexuality, regardless of what my parents or my church want to say about it. Your support told me and many teenagers like me that no matter what those around us say, we will be equal under the law.”
History is a funny thing. When all those imaginary risks fail to materialise, they will be forgotten entirely. When that fog recedes, history will also forget all of the quibbles, like saying: “There ‘s a better way to achieve the same thing.”, which allow some MPs to vote against this bill whilst still saying they support fair and equal treatment.
There is no longer any room for nuance or middle ground. Instead, what history will record is whether you voted for inclusiveness, equality under the law, and pluralism, or against them. What it will record is whether you chose to stand with Vinnie, Robert, and Alicia, or instead chose to stand with the Catholic Action Group, extremism, threats, and blackmail. Please be brave tonight so that you can be proud of your vote later. Tonight, please stand with me, stand with us, and stand with justice, fairness, and love.
Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) : I love my job, but every now and then it really rocks. This is one of those moments that every now and then we have in this House, when I know in my very being that I am doing something good, something right, something life changing. Tonight is one of those moments.
I too would like to acknowledge the former MPs who are in the House tonight—Marilyn Waring, Katherine Rich, Georgina Beyer, and Tim Barnett—each of whom in their time in this House has supported the values that this bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, represents. It is good to have you here, all of you, on this occasion, and I pay tribute to you.
In my inaugural speech to Parliament in 2005 I railed against our tendency as a nation to drive some people to the margins of our society and then despise them for being there. I talked of the lazy notion of political correctness and of how that label was used, dripping with sarcasm, to denigrate and destroy anything that was inclusive, compassionate, tolerant, or forward-looking. Tonight I am here to help include the marginalised, equalise the law for the outlaws, and put one more nail in the coffin of legal discrimination in New Zealand.
I want to thank my colleague Louisa Wall for the opportunity to do this. I pay tribute to her for her courage, her strength, and her leadership throughout this issue. She has been supported by a large team of enthusiastic supporters and helpers, both inside and outside this House, and I thank them all as well, from the bottom of my heart.
I come at this issue from a simple starting point. There are no grounds in this country on which discrimination under the law should occur on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We all sit somewhere on the sexuality continuum: some closer to one end than the other, some in the middle, and still others at one point at one time in their lives and at quite another point at other times in their lives. I have seen examples of all of these, up close and personal.
The injustice of discriminating before the law against someone because of who they are—not because of what they do, but of who they are intrinsically—is wrong, and we are past it in 2013. 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.
I am gay, but I do not wish to get married. I have never wanted to get married. It does not mean that I do not cherish the relationship I have with as much ardour as any married person. But I do not want not to be able to marry because the law discriminates against me—that is the point for me.
This position has been driven home for me by working closely for years with a group of young people in Nelson called Q-Youth. This is an alliance of straight, gay, and transgender young people and adults, who began at Nayland College many years ago to build a safe and supportive environment for young people who were questioning, or wrestling with, their sexuality. It includes adults who are parents, teachers, counsellors, professional people—and me—who all want the same thing, which is for these young people to grow up in safety, free from discrimination, free from bullying, and free from violence and unsafe practices, so that they can be who they truly are. I want to acknowledge, in particular, Seb Stewart, who was a mentor to many of these people, and Tabby Besley and Joseph Habgood, who are in the gallery tonight, and who have offered much in the way of leadership, along with numerous other wonderful, clever, and brave Nelson young people.
Through that work I met many questioning young Nelson people, who had all suffered to a greater or lesser degree because of being made to feel like an outcast—an outlaw. Some had cut themselves. Some had punished themselves with drug and alcohol abuse. Some had become mentally unwell. Some had attempted suicide. Some were hugely supported by their parents; they were the lucky ones. Some were rejected by their parents; they were not so lucky.
Equality before the law is the start. If there is a benign legislative regime, there will be, over time, different behaviour and greater acceptance. Laws alter only behaviour, not attitudes, but attitudes come eventually, when people see that the sky has not fallen and that their own rights are not diminished by extending them to others. But when one is growing up, like these young people in Nelson, from whom I have learnt so much, one can sense discrimination and a lack of acceptance at 500 paces. It sits on your shoulder like a vulture, waiting for you to fall and to be pecked to death. Little by little, stroke by stroke, young people are diminished and reduced, unless they can find a safe place to be.
So this law is not really about me as a lesbian woman, at all. It is about creating a just and tolerant society, which is safe for our young people to grow up in. For those who have a different world view from mine, can I simply say that I would stick up for your rights to equality before the law, as well.
Finally, I return to my inaugural speech in this House. At the end of it I referred to my daughter and said that I hoped that whenever the time came to leave this place, I would leave our society improved in some measure for her sake. She was born to two mothers and two fathers. She has never lacked for love, support, guidance, and care. In fact, it is possible that she has had twice as much of it than most children in a two-parent family have. She has been, and remains, a great joy to all of us. She deserves a world where her family is as accepted as anyone else’s. She said to me, of course, as she was proofing my speech tonight, that her world would have been very different growing up if there had been social acceptance around our family. She does not regret it for herself, but she does wish it for other people—she is a good girl.
Our actions here must always be about the future. We leave this world to others, especially our young people. Let us make it a better, fairer, kinder place than we found it. Let us pass this bill.
The privilege we have to be in this House is counterbalanced by the need to stand up and be counted. 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. 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 that all New Zealanders should be free to pursue their own happiness. ACT’s principles of freedom and choice go to the heart of this particular issue. Freedom gives each individual the right to determine for themselves their happiness for their own lives. I want my political career and public service to recognise the value and potential of every New Zealander.
My gay friends know that my vote is not needed to pass this Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, but they tell me that my support is important to them. I received a text from a friend who had heard that this bill had my support. The text said: “Thanks, Banksie. This bill won’t have any impact on your marriage, but it will mean a great deal to me and my relationship.” I think that sums up the argument very well.
I know many people are opponents with strong views on this issue. I respect that. I hope my comments tonight give an insight for my friends who do not support this bill and cannot understand why I have charted this course. I respect their right to hold their views, and uphold their right to practise their faith. In turn, I expect those people to let me hold my views and practise my own faith.
When making this decision, I had to ask myself whether 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 (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Can I thank my Treaty partner “Hone” Banks for allowing me to have his final 5 minutes. In case there is any doubt, we are talking about the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. 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?”.
I want to bring a specific contribution to this House as a proud uri of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Arawa waka—yeah! In 1849 Wīremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke of Ngāti Rangiwewehi shared his knowledge of our Atua in a publication called Ngā Tama a Rangi. It is one of those stories I want to bring to the House with me today. You, sir, may well have heard the story about Hinemoa and Tūtānekai, a story of love glorified by Victorian settlers, with all the markings of romance. According to tribal law, Hinemoa swam to Mokoia in the middle of Rotorua to be with her true loved one—everybody say “Ah.”
Hon Members: Ah.
TE URUROA FLAVELL: But I am going to add an extra part to the story, and tell you instead about Tūtānekai and Tiki. Before Tūtānekai married Hinemoa, he had a close male companion, Tiki. In a manuscript by Te Rangikāheke, Tūtānekai says to his father: “Ka aroha atu a Tūtānekai ki a Tiki, ka mea atu ki a Whakaue: ‘Ka mate ahau i te aroha ki toku hoa, ki a Tiki.’” Translated: “Tūtānekai loved Tiki and said to Whakaue: ‘I am stricken with love for my friend, for Tiki.’” Later, Tūtānekai refers to Tiki as “tāku hoa takatāpui”. So, from the wisdom of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, a new word was coined: “takatāpui”, defined in the Dictionary of the Maori Language compiled by the missionary Herbert William Williams in 1844 as “an intimate companion of the same sex”. “Takatāpui” is now used universally to describe people who might otherwise describe themselves as gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, or intersexual.
This history is set out by a Māori academic—not of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, but nevertheless—Dr Clive Aspin in his analysis of Hōkakatanga—Māori sexualities. This research tracked fast forward to the early 2000s, with the Māori Sexuality Project undertaken at Auckland University. Many of the respondents to that research were able to recall examples of their kaumātua and kuia talking about people they knew who had same-sex attraction. These people held traditions of importance and status within their whānau and hapū. According to Dr Aspin, they were not rejected or marginalised, and were considered to be valuable members of their communities.
Talking about our history, our shared history in Aotearoa, is really important. We all know another painful history of discrimination, of prejudice, and of homophobia, expressed by other members in this House tonight—of young people in such agony about the way that they live their lives that suicide becomes the only option, of people living in fear and shame, scared of the harassment that they have all too often experienced. Some of the lobbying that every MP has endured over this last 9 months has shown us the ugliness of stigma that has been hurled at Louisa Wall. Ki taku tuahine, ka nui te mihi ki a koe.
[I acknowledge you greatly, my sister colleague.]
So I urge all of us to think deeply about the universal values of aroha, of commitment, of whakawhanaungatanga, of trust, of faith, and of hope—kaupapa tuku iho. As this third reading comes to an end, I think about tamariki and mokopuna who now know that they do not have to hide the fact that there are two mums in their household, about parents who want to know that their son can marry the man of his dreams and they can be all out and proud on their special day, and about all of our whānau takatāpui who celebrate tonight as a day on which history is made—
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts) : Thank you for the opportunity of speaking in this debate on the third reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. I will be splitting my call with Jonathan Young, MP for New Plymouth. 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, has 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 also believe that the true discussion here is about the equality, the legal equality, of relationships, whether they be heterosexual or whether they be homosexual, whether they be marriage or whether they be civil union or whether they be de facto. I believe that they should be equal, and I think it is a shame that amongst many people who are within our community they are not. I think that that is really to our detriment. I would like to think that people would be able to look across relationships within our community and see that that is right, that people who love one another should be able to commit to one another. I am also of the opinion that those people who have come out and argued from a strident faith perspective that this is a wrong vote are wrong in themselves.
I also believe, though, that we should be having a debate tonight about what marriage is and what marriage is not. 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. I believe that this debate should be about what marriage is about. If that is about the equality of legal status of relationships within our society, then we should be having the courage or the balls or whatever it is to have exactly that debate.
I am concerned, too—and I have had discussions this week with members across the House and Louisa in particular—about, for instance, the status of those civil celebrants and those celebrants of organisations, such as the Anglican and the Methodist Churches, who have not taken a stand or a position in respect of this particular bill, or gay marriage in effect. They should be able to rest in the confidence that the Human Rights Commission has given them that they will be able to refuse the opportunity to wed gay couples who present themselves for marriage, on the basis of their own opinion and their own belief. It is important to state that now, although it may be very dry and unemotional to be able to do that, because in terms of statutory interpretation in times to come it will become important that this Parliament is resting on the advice it has had.
Having said that, I would like to just acknowledge this: I came to this House as a fairly ignorant person out of the provinces, in order to represent the constituents of Wanganui who elected me to Parliament. I am pleased to note that I have established a number of relationships and I have changed my mind in respect of those relationships. I am grateful for the privilege of having friendships and associations. I have the love and the friendship of a number of people who are in a range of relationships; whether they be homosexual or heterosexual means nothing. I believe that this debate—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member. His time has expired.
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) : Thank you for the opportunity to stand and speak in this debate on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. It is not often that debates in this House and around this country engage the hearts and minds in the way that this debate has. I believe it is because it touches issues deep within the core of people’s being. It is to do with our most important relationship. It is to do with family. It is to do with children. It is to do with all the important things that we do everything else for.
Here we are in this powerful expression of the democratic process, with different views on an issue with so many emotions. I believe that in this debate it is not as clear as many people think. I think that there are views and issues that many people, New Zealanders in our communities, are struggling with, are wondering about, and they are looking to this House tonight. I believe that our society is probably more divided than this House is on this issue.
Everyone has a right to their view, a right to express it, a right to agree or to disagree, and, I hope, in a civil society, a right to be respected because of or despite their view. It is appropriate that diverse opinions be expressed in this House tonight. 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 for their relationship, to give them that sense of perhaps even permanence it may bring, or support. And 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 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. Those might be the very sentiments while we are debating this bill.
But what we are debating, I believe, is not necessarily about love, because love is not legislated. I loved that campaign; I thought it was pretty good, Grant. It was a great idea about legalising love, but I do not know whether you can do that. I know the angle you are taking, I know what you are talking about, but I think the human heart is too rampant and too romantic to be contained and boxed and denied. I believe that people will pursue that which brings them meaning and fulfilment in life. Essentially, the value of marriage, which this society upholds, is that you become my one and only, and we commit to the best of our ability to make this an exclusive and permanent relationship. That is the reason why I supported civil unions, because I believe that in that sense—and I know that perhaps many people say we need to move on—there is a sense of recognition, exclusivity, and permanence that comes to relationships. My view is that history and tradition have invested significant meaning into the term “marriage” and I believe that we need to retain its present definition. Thank you.
KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) : It is my intention to split this call with Mojo Mathers from the Green Party. Taloha ni. It is a privilege to take a call in the final stage of the debate on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. This is a historic moment not for just this Parliament or the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual community but also for our country.
I want to take this opportunity because there is more than one Pacific perspective in this House and in our country. To my fellow Pacific members of Parliament, I respect your choice. To those in the Pacific community who oppose this bill, I respect your beliefs. I hope that you respect and understand my choice and my strongly held beliefs. The belief driving my choice and my opinion is more prevalent among, but not restricted to, younger Pacific Islanders. It is in no way meant to be disrespectful or a challenge to our elders. In fact, in my mind, my strongly held views derive from the strong Pacific values that have been passed on to me by my parents and family.
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, were 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.
I hope that our community can embrace that there are many in our families who on a daily basis struggle to be openly who they are. For cultures whose very survival relies on pride of identity, cultures and language, and being proud of who we are, we need to let out youngsters know that in every respect they should be proud of who they are and that we are proud of who they are.
Locally, can I thank all those who respectfully gave their opinions both for and against. In particular, can I thank Pastor Ken Roach from the Porirua Elim Christian Church. We both discussed, dissected, and disagreed, but it was always respectful. The Government Administration Committee, led by the Hon Ruth Dyson, strengthened this bill to address many issues that church leaders like Ken held. It made it clear no minister or religious celebrant is obliged to marry a couple if doing so would contravene the religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions of a religious body or organisation.
I would like to thank Louisa Wall, who worked from the outset to ensure respect for religious beliefs despite the fundamental differences of opinion. Before I conclude I would like to acknowledge Kāpiti Mayor Jenny Rowan and her partner Jools Joslin, who, I understand, are somewhere in the precincts of Parliament. They have been at the forefront of this long-running issue, because the courts denied them their right to marry. Well, Jools, when this bill was pulled out of the ballot I remember seeing you at Coastlands mall and you said “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Well, tonight, seeing is believing.
I am going to end, like Maryan Street, the way I ended my maiden speech, with a quote from William Penn that I hold dear. It reads: “I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.” Tonight this House will do that.
MOJO MATHERS (Green) : I would like to start by expressing my heartfelt thanks to every member of the House who votes for the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill tonight. Your vote will mean a great deal to me, to my family, and to thousands of other New Zealanders. 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. No mother could be more proud of her daughters than I am, and to see them have equal rights before the law is very important to me. I know from the wonderful emails that I have received that there are many other parents around the country who want their children to have the same right to marry the person they love.
I also have loved ones from the wider rainbow community for whom this bill will make a real difference. It will make a difference for them whether or not they choose to marry because it will affirm that they have equal rights before the law regardless of their sexual orientation. When I was growing up, I witnessed bullying and taunting of young people suspected of being gay. It was a terrible experience and profoundly distressing. Since that time I have seen significant cultural change in attitudes towards gay people, and I have seen fear being replaced with love, bullying replaced with acceptance, rejection replaced with tolerance. I find it incredibly sad that opponents of marriage equality speak of this cultural change as if it is something to be afraid of. For me, it is something to be embraced with open arms, so I will be voting for this bill as an affirmation of the rights of rainbow youth and the hope that one day every young person in New Zealand will feel safe and confident about their sexuality, free from fear and bullying.
Every member in the House who votes for this bill tonight will be voting for love, tolerance, and acceptance. On behalf of my family and thousands of other New Zealanders, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) : I planned to split my call with Chris Auchinvole. It is a great privilege to have the responsibility to exercise a conscience vote on this landmark Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. I want to once again acknowledge all those who have submitted and written on this bill from both sides of the debate, and thank them for their passion, energy, efforts, and sincerity. Thank you, Louisa Wall, for your fortitude, and those whom I have heard from, young and old, from all walks of life, from all religions, in Hunua and around New Zealand. Thank you to so many parliamentary colleagues.
At one of my electorate meetings a highly intelligent, crusty, salt of the earth farmer urged me to vote against the bill, but he later joked that over the last few generations the sequence of events has gone like this: in the first instance, parents such as himself used to tell their daughters not to come home with someone from a different religion, then not to come home with someone from a different race, then definitely not to come home single and pregnant, and, today, then not to come home with someone from the same sex, let alone marry them. He encapsulates the fact that society has evolved enormously within a few generations, just as marriage has been evolving as a civil and religious institution throughout human history. In New Zealand we do not have such a clear separation between Church and State as some jurisdictions, and I agree with the argument that the best way to protect religious freedom is to ensure separation of Church and State when it comes to equality under the law. With this legislation, significant safeguards are in place to ensure that marriage celebrants, clergy in particular, remain free to choose according to their convictions.
As a former specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist, extremely poignant experiences for me were the rare occurrences where at the birth of a baby, when the parents instinctively asked: “Is it a boy or a girl?”, I had been literally unable to tell them. This has been because of ambiguous genitalia or a unique physical abnormality. It may take some weeks to fully assess a child, have genetic testing carried out, and assign a sex. Even that may be later changed. This illustrates the dramatic new knowledge available in the modern world to better understand the spectrum of physical, genetic, and social expression of gender and sexuality that was simply not possible in the past. I ask anyone, on either side of the debate, whether they would not hope that their newborn could be brought up in a society that is both tolerant and as caring about their child’s status and aspirations as any other child’s—a society that is inclusive, fair, and committed to respecting one another.
It is a sign of huge change that today 65 percent of marriage ceremonies in New Zealand are solemnised independently of the Church. 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 the quality, 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.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) : In the second reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, I along with my fellow members of the Government Administration Committee discussed the submissions we received and how we approached the points raised. This is a process I believe in—a process of listening, considering, and reaching a conclusion based on persuasive argument rather than personal, reactive response. This process is over. Now it is time for us as a Parliament to cast our final votes on this bill and allow our part in this debate to come to an end. As politicians we are here to legislate, but it is only society that can determine how decisions made by this Parliament affect and are absorbed into our social mores. 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, between secular and spiritual, and even between members of the same faith and the same family. This type of divide is not new, nor should it be something that we avoid or dismiss. We have faced many issues of conscience in our nation’s relatively short history. 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, and I think everyone will acknowledge that. It is just a beginning. As an older person I would ask that the younger generation—epitomised, of course, in my colleague Nikki Kaye—show some patience and consideration for those of my generation who will need time to adjust to a change that will be very, very new to us. By the same token, we cannot move forward as a nation if we older ones ignore or reject the heartfelt pleas for respect by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and the younger brigade. We need their acceptance, just as they are entitled to our acceptance.
These impassioned pleas come through loud and clear when you examine the submission process. There were stories of children too scared to talk to their parents about their sexuality for fear of punishment or, worse, for fear of total rejection. We may not always agree with our children’s decisions, and, as any parent will tell you, it is our job to worry, but to create an environment where your child cannot even talk to you about the issues affecting their life is unconscionable.
There are those on both sides of the bill who concentrated on their own point of view to the neglect of any consideration of other points of view. It is necessary, if this bill passes—and we should pass this bill—for groups to reconsider individual standpoints. I feel, particularly in respect of the Churches, that there is a need to pick up the somewhat tattered and torn banner. The banner of Christian love is somewhat tarnished, but if it is picked up with hands of every generation, of whatever ethnicity or gender identity that human bodies individually glory in, then their spirits can restitch, restore, and make the banner resplendent, and to God be the glory. Thank you.
I am proud and privileged to speak in the third reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. I want to see this bill passed into law tonight.
I want to acknowledge the thousands of people who submitted on the bill. We heard some very powerful stories at the Government Administration Committee. We heard stories from young gay and lesbian New Zealanders who felt so strongly that passing this bill would be a recognition and acceptance of them. For that reason alone I support this bill. I want to live in a society that is respectful and tolerant, where diversity is recognised and cherished, and where love and commitment are supported. This bill helps to achieve that aim.
The bill does three primary things. It allows same-sex couples to marry, it ensures that where a person has transitioned from one gender to another and remained married throughout that significant change, they can have their marriage recognised in the law, and it extends to same-sex married couples the current provision of allowing a single person to adopt a child.
The bill ensures that our religious freedoms for celebrants are maintained. We in the select committee applied a belt 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. We have maintained that protection for celebrants under the law.
This bill removes section 56 of the Marriage Act. Some people may not be as familiar with that section as I am, so let me share it with you. That section of the Act says that it is an “Offence to deny or impugn validity of lawful marriage”. We have taken that section out of our law. We are not proposing that more people denigrate other people’s marriages, but we just do not think that that section sits sensibly within a human rights framework.
The issues of religious freedoms, of celebrants being able to decline to marry a couple, and the view of someone in relation to another’s marriage have all been the subject of gross misrepresentations from opponents of the bill, and I resent those misrepresentations. They have been made by just a small group of opponents, but they have spread these lies about the bill widely, and they have upset people and made people anxious about things that are just not true. I think that lying in a debate about something as important as this is immoral. I want to pay tribute to the opponents of the bill who told the truth about their reasons for opposition. Sadly, that was not the case for all opponents. So, just to clarify, no celebrant will be obliged under the law to marry any couple—heterosexual or same sex.
The bill does not rewrite the marriage vows. Vows of marriage will be written by the couple getting married and the celebrant, as they currently are. It will not be illegal to call your husband your husband—phew—and it will not be illegal to call your wife your wife. You will still be able to have “bride and groom” on your marriage certificate, if that is what you want to have on it.
I spoke earlier about the gay and lesbian submitters on this bill. For many, presenting a submission—not just on any bill but on a bill about their right to marry, about their life—took huge courage, and I want to pay a massive tribute to all those who came along. Some of those submitters, particularly the older ones, told us of feeling rejected and different. They told of the fear of coming out to their family and friends, of denial of their own sexual orientation, and of living their life as a lie. They told of being bullied and feeling suicidal, of not being part of their own community. This law is not going to change our world overnight, we will not wake up tomorrow and find ourselves in a totally tolerant and inclusive society, but this will be a lawful recognition of the value of those loving relationships. It is a step forward in recognising the value of love in our law.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour) : It is an honour and a privilege to be able to speak at the third reading of this bill, the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, tonight. I want to congratulate my friend Louisa Wall on her role in bringing this important bill to the House. I have had a lot of calls at home today from the media asking why I support this bill, and the answer is simple. 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.
I want to thank all those who took the time to submit, to write to us, to Facebook us, and to email us. I certainly respect the deep feelings held on both sides of the debate, and want to thank members of this House as well as members of the public for the largely respectful way in which the debate has been conducted, although the person who sent me an email today describing me as “an evil, God-hating reprobate” may want to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their engagement strategy.
I sat on the Government Administration Committee for the consideration of this bill, and I was also a member of the committee that considered the Civil Union Act back in 2003. I am encouraged by how dramatically the tenor of the debate has shifted. The vitriol that was evident back then has not occurred this time around. I also welcome the belated support for that legislation from those who now argue that civil unions are an appropriate recognition of same-sex relationships, that they provide adequate legal protection, and that they are not a second-rate option. But, as one submitter told the committee, civil unions are not a second-rate choice if they are your first choice. And although I respect the beliefs of those who oppose the bill on religious grounds, I strongly believe that although it is the role of the State to protect freedom of religious expression—and this bill reaffirms that—it is not the role of the State to uphold one group’s religious beliefs over another’s.
The bill is also in the best interests of the many children currently being raised by same-sex couples. I could not in good conscience vote against a bill that would ensure that all children in this country are able to benefit from the stability that marriage provides, simply because some may disagree with the relationship their parents are in, especially when concerns that have been raised that a same-sex family might impact negatively on children are not borne out by independent, peer-reviewed research.
This debate is not about special rights for some; it is, in fact, the very opposite. It is about acknowledging that something that used to be seen as so scary, immoral, and different that my mother felt compelled to be an active member of a group called HUG—Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays—is, in fact, completely normal. This is not about gay marriage; it is about marriage, and bringing marriage into the 21st century. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people will not be any better or worse at marriage than us straights. They will face the same challenges, the highs and lows, the successes, and the failures.
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.” And she was bang on. If it is the right thing to do, then regardless of the difficulties or downsides, you make it work.
Unfortunately for her, I decided that marrying Brendan was not the right thing to do, but her point remains. Yes, marriage is a responsibility as well as a right. Yes, it may not always go to plan. Yes, there may be bumps along the way. But you make it work. And I know that thousands of Kiwis right across the country tonight are hoping that Parliament passes this legislation tonight so that they can be given that opportunity. I will be proud to cast my vote tonight for marriage equality. I am now going to sit down so that we can take the vote and pass this bill into law.
|Adams (P)||Delahunty||Huo (P)||Ross|
|Ardern J||Dunne (P)||Hutchison||Sage|
|Auchinvole||Dyson||Jones (P)||Sharples (P)|
|Bennett D||Foss (P)||King A||Tremain|
|Bennett P||Genter||Lees-Galloway (P)||Turei|
|Calder||Goldsmith (P)||Mackey||Wagner (P)|
|Carter (P)||Goodhew (P)||Mahuta (P)||Walker|
|Clendon||Groser (P)||Moroney||Wilkinson (P)|
|Collins (P)||Hague||Norman (P)||Williamson|
|Cosgrove (P)||Harawira (P)||Parata||Woods|
|Dalziel||Horomia (P)||Robertson G||Teller:|
|Ardern S (P)||King C||O’Connor S||Tirikatene (P)|
|Bakshi||Lee||O’Rourke (P)||Tisch (P)|
|Borrows||Lole-Taylor (P)||Peters (P)||Tolley (P)|
|Bridges (P)||Lotu-Iiga (P)||Prosser||Williams (P)|
|Brownlee (P)||Macindoe||Robertson R||Woodhouse (P)|
|English (P)||McClay (P)||Ryall (P)||Young|
|Finlayson (P)||McCully (P)||Sabin|
|Horan (P)||O’Connor D (P)||Stewart||Upston|
Bill read a third time.