Editorial: When, not if

22:50, May 15 2012

United States President Barack Obama's personal endorsement of gay marriage has sent debate on the issue cascading around the globe, and it looks set to be aired in New Zealand's parliamentary chamber.

While it will surely spark fierce public discussion, history shows us that those championing the gay marriage cause will inevitably be successful; the only question is when, not if.

Following Mr Obama's highly symbolic public support for same-sex couples' right to wed, Prime Minister John Key has said he would support legislation legalising gay marriage at least at its first reading, and Opposition Leader David Shearer has given full throated support to marriage equality.

Labour MP Louisa Wall is drafting a member's bill supporting gay marriage she hopes to have in the ballot within days (from there luck will determine when it is drawn for consideration by Parliament).

While there is a long distance to be travelled in a legislative sense, New Zealand will certainly arrive at a destination where same-sex couples can legally marry.

The same can be said for the United States, although the journey there will likely be longer and definitely more tumultuous.

Those who question the inevitability of gay marriage underestimate the power that drives social change.

The push for equality before the law is an irresistible force that throughout history has broken through every barrier of discrimination placed in front of it.

That fundamental tenet of a free and civilised society has overcome slavery, racial segregation, and the disenfranchisement of women and ethnic minorities, and has opened doors of opportunity previously locked shut to people because of their age, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.

Many people have a genuinely-held moral or religious opposition to gay marriage.

Everyone has the right to live their life by their own moral code, and the freedom to practise their religion and express the tenets of their faith.

What they do not have the right to do, however, is impose their personal moral beliefs on others by promoting them as justification to deny others equal status in society.

In the US, despite a constitutional separation between church and state, religion and politics are so closely intertwined it can be difficult to discern where one ends and the other begins.

While that nation was founded on ``life, liberty and pursuit of happiness'', its path toward gay marriage will therefore be much rockier than in New Zealand.

It will happen there, though, just as it will here.

And, like every successful fight for social equality throughout human history, it will happen because it's right that it should.           


Manawatu Standard