Same-sex marriage hotly debated

A crowd of 100 in Palmerston North tasked with debating marriage equality left no stone unturned during a public meeting about the polarising issue of same-sex unions.

Everything from human rights and adoption to polygamy and animal sexuality was raised at the meeting, held at the Community Leisure Centre last night.

The debate over Louisa Wall's Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill calling for same-sex marriage to be recognised in law, was brought to Palmerston North by Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway, who voted in support of the bill at its first reading in Parliament.

Frank Boulton was first on the stand, calling for marriage equality to extend to lesbian, gay, transsexual and intersex people. He said it was a matter of human rights. Enshrining same-sex marriage in New Zealand law would allow love between two people of the same gender to be recognised, Mr Boulton said.

"In this day and age it is simply not acceptable that some people should be treated differently to others simply by biological chance," he said.

"I believe marriage is about love and not just procreation." Approving same-sex marriage would spread a message of respect and acceptance for families coming to terms with a member who had come out.

"Same-sex marriage would . . . build bigger and better families and be all-inclusive."

Ratifying same-sex marriage would not send New Zealand's gay community into a wedding aisle-bound frenzy as many already considered themselves married. But the law did not recognise their right to adopt, and that could be a valuable change from the amendment.

Pastor Ralph Sutherland of the Life Church opposed same-sex unions being defined as marriage.

"This is not about gay bashing or about putting classes on people . . . gay people are good people," Mr Sutherland said. But he felt "change" was not appropriate for the institution of marriage.

"I believe that marriage should absolutely and unequivocally remain between a man and a woman."

He said the Marriage Act should not be redefined to include unions between two men or two women - because a civil union was "enough" and marriage was intended to produce children, borrowing from scripture to prove his point. He supported same-sex adoption, but said a different law could be drafted to allow that without upsetting the institution of marriage.

Audience members took turns to share their views on the controversial bill. One woman attracted a round of applause as she demanded her gay son and lesbian daughter be given the same rights as her two other heterosexual children.

Another audience member countered with fears school sex education would force homosexual views on children.

One man's claims that human sexual practices should mirror those of the animal kingdom drew guffaws from the audience. Another's suggestion that polygamy might follow same-sex marriage into law was dismissed.

On that topic, Mr Boulton had the last word. "The debate has gone into the realm of biology . . . the animal kingdom has a range of relationships . . . some are promiscuous, some mate for life. When you look at humans, we really run the whole gamut."

Manawatu Standard