Former United Future MP Gordon Copeland has compared gay marriage to apartheid, saying allowing gay people to marry was like calling the New Zealand Maori rugby team "honorary whites".
The comments were made before a select committee hearing submissions on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage Bill) Amendment Act, which would allow same-sex marriage. They sparked condemnation from MPs.
Copeland told the committee he opposed the bill, which would "debase" marriage by broadening its definition to include same-sex couples.
Same-sex couples had the same legal rights under a civil union and calling a same-sex relationship "marriage" was comparable to calling the Maori rugby team "honorary whites" for apartheid tour of South Africa, which was insulting to Maori.
"These two relationships are different relationships and putting them together is debasing marriage," he said.
But Labour MP Charles Chauvel said Mr Copeland's talk about "different but equal" seemed to echo the apartheid race rhetoric in much more offensive way.
"As gay and lesbians, think about how that analogy makes us feel," he said.
Mr Copeland said his comments were not a race analogy, but about government's using the same term for two different things. Committee chair Labour MP Ruth Dyson called them offensive and inappropriate.
"You need to think about how you made people feel with those comments."
Outside the committee, Copeland defended his comments and denied they were homophobic.
"That is just stupid."
Other submitters also argued against the bill, with many church leaders afraid it would compel them to marry homosexual couples. Some suggested the next step could be legalising incest or bigamy.
MPs have stressed that no-one would by compelled to marry someone against their religious belief.
Supporters of the bill have called the current law a violation of human rights.
- The Dominion Post
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