Gay right to wed 'not special, just equal'
After 10 years together, one Christchurch couple have never considered marriage - because they have never had the right to.
However, new legislation could open the way for Craig Johnstone, 46, and Brad Howlett, 43, to tie the knot, along with hundreds of other homosexual couples in New Zealand.
A private member's bill to allow same-sex couples to marry was drawn from a ballot yesterday and will be debated by Parliament, potentially as early as next month.
Johnstone and Howlett believed legalising gay and lesbian marriages would be the "last great hurdle" for equal rights.
"Once marriage comes in, we have beaten the prejudice. There is nothing else the liberation movement has to aim for," Johnstone said.
The couple have been in a "long-term, stable relationship" for 10 years but had chosen not to get a civil union because it was perceived as a "second-rate relationship". Marriage had never been discussed "because it was never an option".
If the bill was passed, the couple would consider walking down the aisle but "formalising our love" was "not a huge priority" to the two men.
"For us it's not a big deal. We are comfortable as it is but everybody should have the choice," Howlett said.
"We are not looking for special rights; we are looking for equal rights."
If the legislation was passed, Howlett said it would represent "society saying ‘It's OK' ", to the gay community.
He recalled growing up in the early 90s in Tasmania when it was still illegal to be gay and said society had taken "huge steps" towards equality in the last few decades. The pair said they knew of other gay and lesbian couples in Christchurch who would choose to marry if the option was made available.
However, a stalwart of the gay community said the "average gay guy couldn't give a toss" about legalising same sex marriages.
Bruce Williamson, who has run gay nightclubs in Christchurch since the early 1980s, was "not even remotely interested in the issue".
"The average gay guy couldn't care less about anything that resembles the institution of conventional heterosexual marriage," he said. "It has no relevance to their lives. The majority couldn't give a toss about it and I have no idea why people are obsessing over it."
The drawing of the bill was a "non-event" for Williamson, and he said many people in the gay and lesbian community were asking "why we are discussing it" via online blogs and forums.
He believed the controversial issue was "being driven by only a few people who enjoy a good bandwagon to climb on", but the issue of same-sex marriages was not a "common topic of conversation" in Christchurch's gay community.
"I don't need validity of any relationship I am in, and in my experience others feel the same way. People couldn't care less about it," he said.
The bill, led by Labour MP Louisa Wall, is likely to be subject to a conscience vote but already has the support of Labour leader David Shearer and Green Party MPs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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