Parliament to vote on gay marriage bill

Last updated 14:58 26/07/2012
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Gay marriage is ''the reality of our times'' and should be voted in to law, Labour's David Shearer says but deputy Prime Minister Bill English says it is ''not that important'' and he ''thought the problem had been solved'' with civil unions.

And NZ First MP Richard Prosser says although he has ''nothing against gays'' he will be voting against a gay marriage bill to ''preserve the institution of marriage''.

A members bill to allow same sex couples to marry was today drawn from a ballot and will be debated by Parliament - potentially as early as next month.

The bill, led by Labour MP Louisa Wall, is likely to be subject to a conscience vote but will have the support of Shearer and all Green Party MPs. Prime Minister John Key has previously indicated he would vote for a bill for gay marriage to at least be considered by a select committee.

A number of MPs - including Key and English - voted against legislation in 2004 that allowed same sex couples to enter civil unions. Many of those MPs still in Parliament may also vote against Wall's bill.

But Shearer today said Key's support for gay marriage may be ''some indication from the National Party mood is''.

''I think it's got a good chance of going through,'' Shearer said.

"I think it's the reality of our times. It just effectively puts in place what's already in existence."

The youth wing of the National Party - the Young Nats - today said they supported marriage equality and would be lobbying National MPs to do the same.

"Our generation overwhelmingly supports marriage equality for all New Zealanders and our Members of Parliament need to vote with that in mind," Young Nats president, Sean Topham said.

''We believe in freedom and equal opportunity for all Kiwis and our generation clearly agrees. Marriage equality is a no brainer.''

However, National MPs canvassed on their way in to the debating chamber this afternoon were mostly reluctant to offer a view on either Wall's bill or gay marriage in general.

English said he had ''not given it any thought at this stage''.

''I have to say, [it's] not top of my agenda. I haven't even considered it, I don't know what's in the bill. I'm focused on the economic issues,'' English said.

''In the big picture, it's not that important. We're focusing on jobs ... Clearly it's important to some people but we haven't been focused on that issue, we've been focused on the broader economy.''

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Asked whether or not he supported gay marriage, without any reference to Wall's bill, English said: ''I thought they could, quite honestly. I've got to have a look at it [the bill], I thought the problem had been solved, we're focused on the economy.''

Fourth-ranked Cabinet minister Steven Joyce said he had ''not given it a moment's thought''.

It was ''not exactly the biggest issue of the day,'' Joyce said.

Chester Borrows, a minister outside Cabinet, said he would not vote for the bill.

''I've got a sort of faith question. I think marriage is a heterosexual institution,'' Borrows said.

Green MP Kevin Hague, who had a similar bill of his own in the ballot, said all Green MPs would back Wall's bill.

"Public opinion polls show that more than twice as many New Zealanders support marriage equality as oppose it so we can now make it law," Hague said.

"I am optimistic that we will get support from across the House ... I am really confident that we will be able to achieve this.''

US President Barack Obama came out in favour of gay marriage in May saying gay and lesbian Americans ''should be treated fairly and equally''.

After Obama announced his stance, Key added his backing for the first time and Wall introduced her bill to the member's ballot.

Scottish legislators yesterday announced plans to allow gay marriage.

Shearer said those developments indicated a ''movement across the world in support of gay marriage''.

Civil unions were not enough for same sex couple, he said.

''For many people, they believe this is about marriage and they want to be recognised in exactly the same way. It's about marriage equality at the end of the day - those people having the same rights,'' Shearer said.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia suggested she, like Key, had shifted on the matter after voting against civil unions in 2004 and she may now back the bill.

''I think that I have a better perspective because in the end I acknowledge and believe that so long as children have the best parent  that they can have ...that that's the most important thing rather than the sexuality,'' Turia said.

The drawing of Wall's bill from the ballot capped a heady 24 hours for Labour.

The party scored a rare double coup in Parliament last night with two of its other member's bills - for an extension to paid parental leave and to ''Mondayise'' public holidays - passing by a single vote against National Party opposition.

With those and three other bills clearing the debating chamber, five new spaces opened up on the member's ballot and four of those were today filled by Labour bills.

The Government is expected to fight David Clark's Minimum Wage Amendment Bill, which aims to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Clayton Cosgrove's State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities (Protecting New Zealand's Strategic Assets) Amendment Bill entrenches state owned enterprises and requires a 75 per cent majority in Parliament to sell assets or force a referendum.

Shane Jones' Ombudsmen (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill would allow the Ombudsmen to set guidelines for recovering the costs of its investigations from the agencies being investigated.

The fifth bill is in the name of Green MP Catherine Delahunty.

The Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill would prohibit the pollution of waterways which is currently allowed under exceptional circumstances.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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