Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill — Second Reading - New Zealand Parliament
I move, That the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill be to perform a marriage that he or she does not feel comfortable about. . I have some sympathy for those who fear that if this bill is passed, pressure could arise at some future date for other Cunliffe, Horomia (P), Robertson G, Wall. FAMILY TIES: The Rev Bill Cunliffe, David and his mother Barbara, at Te Aroha circa She'd known the boy for a couple of years, since the Cunliffe family moved served with him at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the late s. . They married in an Auckland church over the summer break, and. Shimmying between the groups of people as she showed off her new slimline Kym's husband, former EastEnders heart-throb Jack Ryder, 21, had been on the Kym met Dave Cunliffe, a builder and the father of her children - David, now eight, and Elon Musk and singer ex-girlfriend Grimes spotted enjoying a meal of.
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: 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.
Kym Marsh's daughter Emilie Cunliffe joins The Voice's Lydia Lucy at Sugar Hut Liverpool launch
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.
I thought Deuteronomy was a cat out of the musical Cats, but never mind. The quote is Deuteronomy 1: 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: 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.
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. 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. In 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: And you … and you … and you … Gotta give em hope. Well, in New Zealand in there was a 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. 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 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 with homosexual law reform and again in with civil unions, it is a Labour MP who is moving this important social change. Today I congratulate Louisa Wall.
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: 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: At its heart this bill is about family and strengthening families. 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: My parents have four sons. They love us equally.
Likewise this House should demonstrate an equal love for its public too. She would welcome any person into her home if they love her son too. That was an incredibly powerful message for me to receive. 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.
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 theNew Zealand children who live in poverty. 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: It can be an incredibly difficult situation to be in, but this Parliament can help change that. 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. Husbands will still call their wives their wife, and vice versa.
I will let you all in on a secret: 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. 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.
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.
New Zealand First believes in the use of public referenda and we have for a long time. Some will recall that in 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.
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. 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: 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: 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. That is a fact. It did go to caucus.
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. 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 Parliament where one would be proud to face up to their caucus and say: 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. Do they think that if the public is asked, they might lose?
Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill — Third Reading
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: 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. That is why we are prepared to all compromise and say as one group: 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: 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: When the political wilderness years come, do not say you were not warned. 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 s. 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: It never went through caucus.
Bill Cunliffe | Revolvy
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. That is not a point of order. Are you saying such an expression is parliamentary? Are you saying that the expression he used is parliamentary? I am certainly not ruling it out as unparliamentary. 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? I hope not, because we would still be in the s. 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: 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 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 percent. 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.
My message to you all is welcome to the mainstream. 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, submissions— 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.
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. 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. 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. This is about the daughter who asked her mother yesterday: 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.
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. It would be great to celebrate our anniversary with a wedding. 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 did not belong. 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. 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. One submitter called Vinnie wrote: 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.
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.
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.
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: You belong unequivocally and without having to compromise who you are. 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 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. Here are some words from Alicia, another young New Zealander: 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. 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. 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 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.
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. 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 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. Opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice. It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We all must be allowed to love each other with honour. Yet all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are persecuted.
We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God. This must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for what they are. It is the same logic and reason that should guide us all in this House when we vote on this issue.
To most people marriage is an institution characterised by positivity. It is about love, commitment, and family.
No sector of society has the right to claim ownership of marriage and determine that their perception and practice of marriage is the only acceptable way. Marriage belongs to society as a whole and that requires the involvement of the whole of society. The role of the State in marriage is to issue to a licence to two people who love each other and want to commit to one another formally—that is what this bill does.
To be valued for who we are is the bare minimum we should expect from others. It is the bare minimum we should expect from the State. For me it is what I would expect from a church, but that will be a longer journey and one that each denomination and church community will determine in their own time.
These are fundamental aspects of our identity with which we are born. I have always been clear that in pursuing marriage equality I will defend the rights of those in churches to practise their religion on terms that they consider reflect their beliefs.
Section 29 protects all celebrants. Attempts by opponents in the last week to limit the protection only to those listed in the amendment are totally misleading. The select committee amendment, in clause 5A, is clear. The general protection in Section 29 remains in place and applies to all celebrants. To read it in any other way is disingenuous. Exercising freedom of religion means religious groups view marriage as exclusive.
That is the reality of freedom of religion and it is my intention to recognise that freedom and therefore allow that discrimination to continue for as long as religious leaders and specific denominations choose. But in return I would ask that churches consider the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community with love, compassion, and reason.
My bill is one step and will allow members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community to participate in the civil and State institution of marriage. Some church leaders have embraced that step and I am hopeful that time will see a change in the attitude and practices of other church members.
I do have hope that churches will move towards an inclusive approach to marriage. Last October the General Assembly of the New Zealand Presbyterian Church passed a motion opposing this bill, but an attempt to pass a motion that their ministers could conduct a marriage only between a man and a woman was lost. That is a positive step and will allow ministers like Rev. Dr Margaret Mayman from St Andrews on the Terrace, who submitted both personally and professionally, to fulfil her desire to be able to offer same-sex couples the same option as different-sex couples—that is, to marry or have a civil union.
I want to recognise and thank the members of the Government Administration Committee who have read and listened to the many submissions received. Their report is reasoned and compassionate in recognising the positions taken by those in favour and those against. Can I just remind members in the gallery that you are in Parliament and Parliament is here for the members of Parliament, not for members in the gallery.
There will be no comments at all. Nevertheless, I have read and considered as many submissions as I could, and I have had numerous meetings with constituents and interested parties, especially in my own electorate in Hamilton. Many urged me to maintain my vote at first reading against the Marriage Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill; quite a few urged me to change it. In recent days both sides of the debate have flooded my in-box with emails.
I understand that view, but in matters of conscience one must fall back on firm foundations. I hope those who have contacted me, whatever their views, believe that I have achieved that, even though, I have to say, I have not always received the same in return. New Zealand may, indeed, be a secular society, but marriage has historically been a religious institution for Christians and for most of the many other religions now represented with followers in New Zealand.
For that reason, this matter is causing huge distress to many, and it is quite wrong to say that changing the definition of the word will not affect anyone else. Christians, for example, believe that marriage was instituted of God himself, signifying the mystical union between Christ and his Church.
It may be convenient for some to argue, therefore, that the change of a definition has no great impact on others, but that ignores and offends tens of thousands of New Zealanders who think otherwise. Last year I indicated that a principal reason for my opposition was my concern that Parliament is moving ahead of the churches on this issue. I remain very concerned about that, as I believe that some of the division that this bill has caused within society in recent months could have been avoided.
If the churches could reach an accommodation, probably based on the French model whereby all couples undergo a civil wedding after which those who wish to, and who meet the criteria of the appropriate church, may then also have a religious wedding ceremony, I think many more in our country could live with this. I am personally disappointed that we are not able to consider and debate that option. Without it, I think this bill is putting the cart before the horse, and I remain unable to support it.
I acknowledge the major challenges faced by members of the select committee, and the respectful nature of the discussions for which I was present. I also acknowledge the architect of this bill, Louisa Wall. A few months ago I accepted an invitation from staff and pupils of Wellington High School to debate this topic with Louisa at one of the largest political meetings I have ever seen.
Several of my colleagues thought I was mad and would probably be lynched. After my initial hesitation, however, I decided to do it, because I felt it was important for young people to have both sides of the argument to consider. I enjoyed the experience, and I respected the approach that Louisa Wall took that afternoon. That aside, given the huge public interest in this topic and the significant ramifications of the change that is proposed, I am very disappointed that the committee was unable to hear many of those who took the trouble to prepare personal submissions and who asked to be given the opportunity to appear before the committee.
I know from many from my own electorate who have spoken to me, and others from around the country who have written, that there are hundreds of New Zealanders who feel aggrieved at being shut out of the process on a discussion of a matter of such importance to them and to their faith communities, their cultural and ethnic groups, and so on. This is not just for Christians—far from it—but, as I have said, my personal reservation remains primarily grounded in my Christian faith and my difficulty in believing that God wants this change to be made.
This is not, in my view, evidence of a religion that is out of touch, or of Christians being unable to love others equally and without passing judgment, but it is about honouring him and his word.
It is not to say that I have not been moved and challenged by many Christians, including four ministers in my own city, who have debated the issue with me and argued that just as Christ always sided with the persecuted and the marginalised in his own times, we should read into that that he would today side with gay couples who are currently denied the opportunity to marry.
That is why I offered in good faith to work with those who felt the Civil Union Act needed to be strengthened, and I repeat that offer. Some have said that this bill grants a basic human right. I do not believe that marriage is a universal human right, because there will always be those who do not meet the legal criteria to marry for various valid reasons.
I have some sympathy for those who fear that if this bill is passed, pressure could arise at some future date for other changes to be made to the Marriage Act to accommodate changes that today would seem unthinkable. It is less than a decade since almost every member of this House, many of whom are still here, argued that a change to the Marriage Act of this nature was out of the question.
That is why many New Zealanders regard this bill as a breach of faith by those they sent here to represent them. Most societies have believed and most religions have taught, for thousands of years, that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman who are over a certain age and not committed to any other relationship.
It is sacred and said to represent, as I mentioned, the union between Christ and his Church. Yes, God loves us all equally, whether gay or straight, but he does not, in my view, approve all social change. Although most who have written to me and, presumably, to other MPs from both sides of this debate—and, as I mentioned earlier, literally tens of thousands have done so—have been sincere in their views and respectful in the way they have expressed them, a few have been aggressive, insulting, and, though the irony appears to have escaped them, far more bigoted than anyone I have heard arguing for the status quo.
It is clear that some of the most extreme writers on both sides of the debate refuse to consider that the alternative view to their own could have any merit whatsoever.
I do not agree with them. I gave an undertaking to consider as many submissions as fairly and as objectively as I could, and I have done that.
I have been moved by the experiences and deeply held convictions of many who have made submissions to the select committee and who have contacted me on both sides of the debate. In particular, I acknowledge the distress of gay friends and constituents and others who have insisted very persuasively that being gay is not a choice and that they continue to feel that society treats them as inferior because of their orientation.
I accept the former conclusion, and I very much regret that the latter is still true for many—I hope we will be able to move away from that. As I said, I would have welcomed debate on the merits of several compromises. I hope we may still be able to consider some, if, as expected, this bill progresses tonight to its Committee stage.
Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, can I thank you very much for that excellent choice in the fierce competition that there is on taking a call on this bill, the Marriage Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill. I was very privileged to chair the Government Administration Committee, which considered this bill, and therefore I am particularly pleased to be able to take a call. I want to acknowledge all the committee members who sat on the consideration of the bill, those who were for the bill and those who were against.
I think that everyone tried really hard, on what is for most people an emotive issue, to be respectful and tolerant of people who disagreed with their view, and I want to thank the committee members for doing that. We were nearly percent successful in that attempt.
Likewise for the submitters. People were very nervous, very anxious, and very passionate, but again, almost without exception, they presented their views in an inoffensive and respectful manner.
I want to pay particular tribute to all the submitters, but particularly the young gay and lesbian submitters, for whom it must have been a very big and courageous step to talk about their own lives in front of people whom they did not know—people who as politicians make an art form out of intimidating people.
We tried not to be intimidating, but nevertheless I am sure it was a very big step, particularly for those young people. People who talked about how they realised their sexual orientation made them different from their family members, from other people at school, or from people in their workplace, many of whom then tried to deny their sexual orientation as a result, who lived their life as a lie.
People who were subjected to being bullied, who felt isolated or rejected by their family, who never felt part of the community or society that we all value so much. For those people this is not going to change their world. This is not going to overnight change New Zealand into a completely tolerant and inclusive society, but it will be a lawful recognition of the value of their loving relationships, and for that reason alone I would support the bill.
It is a step forward in recognising the value of love in our law regardless of the sexual orientation of the people who love. I want to just briefly talk about a frustration I have. They say a frustration shared is a frustration that more people are frustrated about, so let me do that tonight. The changes that we have made to section 29 of the Marriage Act, which my colleague Louisa Wall has referred to, are specifically designed to ensure that religious freedoms are not trampled on by the Marriage Act, including this amendment, which I hope we progress tonight.
We accept that religious freedom should continue in New Zealand. We received advice, we debated about it, we thought about it, and we took the best advice possible. I would be prepared to be a witness for a reformist minister in court and say that he has the right to deny a same-sex couple solemnisation of their wedding—should any same-sex couple want to ask a reformist minister to solemnise their wedding.
We also as part of the select committee process decided to repeal section 56, and I would recommend that people read that. We thought the language of the law was outdated. We just thought that this was an old-fashioned bit of legislation.
Our specific direction to the officials was to not do that. Frankly, I think it would not impact on many people. I will not stop calling my husband my husband, actually, regardless of what the law says. But we specifically said we wanted the law to recognise what people practised and wanted to do in our country, and the only references we have changed are those that were totally incomprehensible if we left the language as it was.
So people who say we have gender-neutered the language are misinforming people, and they should be told to read the report from the select committee and read the amendment. I am a very, very happily married heterosexual woman. I fail to see how enabling any other person in our country to have the opportunity to share in the joy and responsibility of marriage could harm anyone, but I am very able to see how much that could benefit the strength of our families and our communities. I am delighted with this legislation.
I am very proud of the way the select committee worked on it. I know there were many submitters who did not have the opportunity to be heard. We read their submissions. We value their input. Those who were heard had a powerful impact on us. I think it has been a very good process, and one that I am very pleased to support.
In the first reading of the Marriage Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill I voted that it be sent to the Government Administration Committee to ensure a call for submissions and a platform for discussion, and I am very glad that I did that. Serving on the select committee as deputy chairman was instructive, illuminating, and educative, and it was a pleasure working with the Hon Ruth Dyson as chair.
I wish now to speak to the considerations of the select committee. The one aspect that was universal—common to all submitters—was that marriage is special, precious, and desirable. Everyone said so, no matter which part of the argument they were interested in. The issue is over who can or cannot participate in it. Submitters were very definite in expressing their particular views. I found there were three main groupings, and I would like to talk about them now.
One grouping has an eschatological view of the bill—in other words, to pass the bill will be the beginning of the end of society as we know it. This was a very firmly held view.
It is perceived as a slippery slope, leading to our ultimate demise as a nation and as a civilisation. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of submitters who hold to this view. It was sincerity, though, that seemed to be entirely based on apprehension and fear and circular reasoning, rather than on a persuasive argument. I cannot see it. I have thought deeply about this and cannot believe that the social impact of the bill would herald the demise and collapse of the wider societal values in New Zealand.
I respect the right of those who wish to hold to that view, but I cannot give it currency in coming to a defined position on this bill. Another grouping held a perception that this is counter to religious views and practices and represents State interference in religious practice, beliefs, and dogma. The select committee listened very carefully and sincerely to the concerns expressed. It became clear through listening that the overriding concern is that the clergy and those authorised by religious bodies to conduct marriages would be obliged—indeed, forced—to conduct ceremonies for same-gender couples should the bill be passed.
We have already heard from the Hon Ruth Dyson about section 29 of the Marriage Act, which has always stipulated that it authorises but does not oblige any marriage celebrant to solemnise a marriage to which the licence relates. The select committee has recommended a new clause that makes it abundantly clear that ministers of religion or celebrants from approved organisations are not obliged to solemnise a marriage if to do so would contravene the religious beliefs of the religious body or approved organisation.
I thoroughly enjoy theological discussion and have a huge appetite for it. I have been most grateful for the opportunity to sit with clergy from many different denominations and engage with them on this issue. By providing and ensuring that this bill deals only with secular issues—I will say it again: It is not for the State to have a view on this. It is for the churches to resolve in their own way and time, and I look forward to engaging in that discussion in a personal capacity in my own time.
The third consideration—we have heard it spoken by my colleague and friend Tim Macindoe this evening—is that marriage is an institution: I am privileged to have my wife in the gallery tonight. My wife and I married on 11 March, 41 years ago last Monday, and lived happily ever after. But the question that exercised the upper echelons of ecclesiastic minds in those days was whether or not the bride should take a vow of obedience to her husband.
If you are marrying a red-headed West Coast girl from a West Coast aristocratic family, some hope! During that same time, to have children born out of wedlock was a hamper to church marriage, as was a divorce, or, indeed, wanting to marry someone of a different religion.
Banns of marriage were called from pulpits, advising that people were intending marriage, and others were invited to give reasons why that marriage should not proceed or to for ever hold their peace.
Marriage is not an unchanging institution, and although most of its institutional aspects have been laudable for men, they have often been less than favourable for women.
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Some statistics to show this change to the institution are quite illuminating. Twenty-three percent of marriages are conducted in a registry office, 32 percent of marriages are conducted in a church, and 45 percent are conducted by independent marriage celebrants.
The figures shout out change that we cannot close our ears to. I found it personally significant that from the—wait for the figures—9, independent marriage celebrants, which is nearly 10, independent marriage celebrants, and civil union celebrants, so that is 10, all together, the select committee received two—two—submissions.
The last two aspects I wish to touch on are the matters of conscience and the question of family coming first. In terms of conscience, I have given much, much thought to this.
I am acquainted with guilt. To assuage my conscience on this issue, I delved back in my life to the age of understanding, which I think those of Catholic persuasion tell me the Jesuits determine is at 7 years old, when I was a boy. I looked at catechismic values when learning the catechism by rote in Glasgow: They did not have to add: Every person has the same spiritual claim as one another to being made in the image of God, and it will take a braver person than I am to deny that.
I have addressed the question of eschatology in my mind, the question of ensuring religious freedom, and the assumption of benign institutionalisation. My conscience is not clouded or indeed involved in this issue. As an older person, we do have baggage to carry of remembering when homosexuality was illegal—in fact, it was criminal—and it was, we were told, immoral.
There were two definite groups of people who came and made submissions before us, and it was what I would call a generational divide. So, in dealing with the legacy of discriminatory prejudice—and I would not want that to be a deciding feature—I prayerfully ask to be able to internalise and resolve this complicated situation in my head, in my heart, and in my soul.
I now realise that this bill seeks to put first something that critics have accused it of undermining, and that is the family. We as parliamentarians should not simply look past the interests of the applicants for this bill. We should not simply look at their interests.
We should, and we must, look after their interests. We should pass this bill. For the reasons outlined by my friend and colleague Ruth Dyson, I will speak for a relatively short time as well. I want to thank her for her able chairing of the Government Administration Committee, and I thank the previous speaker, Chris Auchinvole, for the work he did also on that select committee.
I will speak to contrast the attitude of most of the submitters to the select committee with my experience of chairing a select committee on a similar subject 27 years ago. You were about When I was 17, says Ruth.
It was earlier, as opposed to the mid-point of my career. There is no doubt that the winds of change have blown. It is enormously different. There are a few of my colleagues who were there at the time, but the attitude of some members from one side—Graeme Lee, John Banks, and Norman Jones—was appalling. It was absolutely shocking and revolting. Some of the people who spoke for that legislation were not that flash either. I think of Trevor de Cleene, whose main thrust was: But I was proud, at that time, at the third reading, to be the teller for the Ayes and to come out and put five fingers in the air, because that was the margin that we got.
I am going to now surprise some people by saying that I have a lot in common with the position that Tim Macindoe got to. I think actually that the State has almost no role in marriage.
My view is that if everyone had a civil union, or went to the State and got a bit of paper that said: But I have canvassed colleagues. What became clear to me is that the winds of change have not quite blown that far yet.