72,000 sign against gay marriage
MPs considering gay marriage legislation have been presented with a 72,000-strong petition opposing the move.
Parliament's government administration select committee is considering Labour MP Louisa Wall's Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill and will report back to Parliament on February 28. If passed, the bill could see gay marriage legal in New Zealand by May next year.
At a hearing in Auckland yesterday, Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie presented the committee with a 72,000-signature petition against the bill.
The lobby group last year presented Parliament with the same petition, at that stage with 48,000 signatures.
Mr McCoskrie told the committee marriage was a sacred union between man and woman.
"Nature is exclusive and discriminatory," he said. "Only a man and woman can create a baby."
He also said it was not up to the state to "re-engineer" a pre- political tradition.
Mr McCoskrie's argument was backed by the New Zealand Christian Network's Glyn Carpenter. He said there should be a public referendum.
"The main risk is the future generation will grow up knowing that marriage is a social construct determined by the Parliament of the day, rather something to aspire to," he said.
Churches that had elected to hold same-sex marriages were a minority, Mr Carpenter said.
Groups in favour of the bill included the Mental Health Foundation, Women's Health Action, Hamilton Youth Council, and the New Zealand Aids Foundation, which argued the legislation change would be another weapon against HIV/Aids.
Aids Foundation spokesman Jason Myers said the impact of homophobia was real.
"Passing the bill can only add to the collection of weapons we have to fight HIV," he said.
"We know from a range of studies that LGBT [lesbian gay bisexual transgender] people in New Zealand are at higher risk of suicidal behaviour, are at higher risk of developing mental disorders, and higher risk of substance abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. International evidence says these disparities are mirrored throughout the world; this begs the question of why."
Women's Health Action spokeswoman Sandy Hall said the legislation should be passed on the basis of equal rights for all.
"This legislation doesn't undermine religious faith.
"In fact it has been supported by many religious organisations," she said.
The Dominion Post