Richard and Joseph take sides on the same-sex marriage debate. What side are you on?
By Richard Hills
The campaign for Marriage Equality is going well; polls here say the majority of Kiwis support it, two thirds of our Parliament voted for Labour MP Louisa Wall's Marriage Amendment Bill, more than 10 thousand of you submitted in favour of the bill and it looks likely to pass by the middle of this year. Obama reignited his support behind the movement at his recent inauguration and now with France and Britain on board, almost every developed english-speaking nation, with the exception of Australia, has or will have Marriage Equality soon.
Currently, many young gay or trans-gendered Kiwis grow up feeling they are not truly accepted, knowing they are not treated the same by the law and don't have the same future relationship opportunities as their straight classmates. There is still much discrimination, abuse and violence against people in the GLBTI community, not to mention the high number of suicides and attempts. Homophobic actions are obviously the actions of individuals but I believe the passing of this bill will help stop discrimination and allow all people to feel more accepted.
New Zealand has come a long way since 1986 Homosexual Law Reform, especially over the past decade. I was still at school when Labour's Civil Union Bill was passed; I remember plenty of vocal opposition from many National MPs and quite nasty public campaigns by Family First and Destiny Church. Family First and Colin Craig are still vocal today; announcing that homosexuality is a choice, something about unisex toilets and soccer players not playing rugby, then there's Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust who said it will increase crime? Thankfully these bizarre arguments have hindered their cause not helped it.
Those in favour have led the debate and have given honest and powerful submissions. My favourite personal moments from the campaign was when mum and dad called me during the first reading, yelling down the phone "the ayes have it, the first reading has passed", it was their first time watching a bill being debated. I've loved seeing so many young people - straight and gay - actively supporting the bill and some that I work with have decided to march in the Pride Parade this weekend. My sisters have written submissions; my 82-year-old grandmother has been vocal in her support even on Facebook.
I am privileged to have a supportive and accepting family and have many great friends from different backgrounds that care about equality. I'm so grateful there are so many people who spend so much time fighting for others, including many who have fought for generations to end sexism, racism and homophobia in times that were much more difficult than today. There are many reasons why I support this bill; respect, fairness and equality to name a few, but mostly it's about family and love. All legally recognised couples should have the right to marry if they choose. I have been with my partner six years, if we chose to get married the only people it would affect is us and, of course, all the awesome people we know who will celebrate with us.
It's simple. It's obvious. It's time!
» Kaipatiki Local Board Member Richard Hills, born and bred in Glenfield, is responsible for the Youth, Community and Social Development and Events portfolios. He works part-time as a Community Health Worker, predominantly working with young people across wider Auckland.
By Joseph Bergin
Even at the age of 20, with no plans to get married anytime too soon the debate on both sides has been robust and engaging to witness and be part of - it is one of the most significant debates we can have.
Before we let the extremists on both sides of the debate on allowing same-sex couples to marry clog up the discussion with discriminatory cheap shots and assumptions - marriage for all of us is deeply personal.
For me, marriage is an institution that people enter into, not just a status or affirmation of two peoples' love. Marriage is about confirming a commitment not only to each but for most to allow that love to manifest in offspring. This does not mean that I believe any two people who wish to enter into a loving relationship should not be allowed to, nor does it mean that I believe they shouldn't be entitled to all the same legal rights as anyone else.
Let me say at the outset, this is not about reliving the condemnation of homosexuality and other bigotry, this is not about allowing discrimination against certain people and this is not about a group of religious individuals attempting to exert power over society. What I feel this is about is what marriage is and what marriage isn't.
Now I'm sure that there may be people who hear me say it's about love resulting in creating offspring and feel it's an old-fashioned idea from a time since past usually supporting that view are comments about the divorce rate or number of happily unmarried couples with children, but this is a convention that has been with society for millennia.
All children must have a mother and father, and so marriage is accordingly between men and women. This doesn't mean gay couples cannot raise children, but it does mean they alone cannot conceive them.
Marriage is filled with tradition from vows to rings to overpriced fruitcakes, and the fact is, these things; weddings and the glamour and romance are often mistaken as being the true meaning of marriage. Let me simply say I have never met a single couple, gay or straight, who have felt as though they needed to qualify their affection for each other in any other way than to express it between themselves, after all love is not boastful.
"So if not marriage..." I can already hear people beginning to say. There must be a legal equivalent for those people to still seek to enter a social contract of commitment with each other, and we have one for straight or homosexual couples, civil unions. In legal terms, these hold the exact same rights and I just don't accept that people in civil unions are "second class citizens" it's just so wrong to suggest that.
Fundamentally though, I still struggle to understand when people tell me that marriage is a right. If it were, then why do you have to be a certain age to marry, and why have incest laws when two brothers or two sisters couldn't procreate, why also confine marriage to just two people, if marriage is simply about people who love each other and if it is a right, who's to say that love is exclusive to just two people or only to people of certain ages? We all accept there are limitations on marriage because of what marriage is in its entirety, same-sex marriage is an oxymoron.
But hey, what do I know?
» Joseph Bergin is a born and raised Shore boy and the youngest elected member of the Auckland Council. Sitting on the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, he has a history of working with grassroots youth not-for-profits on the Shore.