Marriage bill to go to select commitee

JOHN HARTEVELT AND SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 30/08/2012
Kyasha Robinson
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

WHY CAN'T WE MARRY? Kyasha Robinson, 20, left, and Belle Mayston, 21, say civil union ‘‘sounds cold, like a business partnership’’. Marriage is more appealing to the couple – ‘‘we’d be able to flaunt it’’.

gay marriage bill passes first reading

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Belle Mayston and Kyasha Robinson are young and in love.

They have been living together in Wellington for the past year and one day, they say, they may want to get married.

The couple, aged 21 and 20, joined the march to Parliament yesterday in favour of Labour MP Louisa Wall's Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill, which passed its first reading in Parliament last night.

Their families and friends accepted their love, they said, so they could see no reason the Government shouldn't as well.

Miss Mayston said the institution of marriage was as important to gay couples as it was to heterosexuals.

"Civil union sounds cold, it sounds clinical. It sounds like sort of a business partnership. Definitely marriage is more appealing - we'd be able to flaunt it.

"It just strikes me as ridiculous that we [can't marry]."

And their wish is a little closer after MPs voted for gay marriage in a near-landslide last night, with a conscience vote on Labour MP Louisa Wall’s bill passing before a packed public gallery at Parliament.

The bill will now be considered by a select committee before facing two further votes before it can pass in to law.

‘‘Today is the time to open the institution of marriage to all people who are eligible,’’ Ms Wall told Parliament last night.

‘‘There is no reasonable ground on which the state should deny any citizen the right to enter the institution of marriage if he or she chooses. That is not the process of inclusion.’’

Labour MP Su'a William Sio, who controversially broke ranks with most of his caucus colleagues and warned the measure could spark a backlash against his party, spoke against the bill.

‘‘It is a difficult issue and the views are very divided,’’ Mr Sio said.

Many believed that some other legislation should be used to strengthen same sex rights rather than changing marriage laws, he said.

‘‘By passing this legislation we not only change the definition of marriage, we change it’s meaning and the fundamental basis of marriage. This change will have enduring ramifications for future generations.’’

Dozens of MPs sought a call to speak on the bill, with MPs freed from the usual strictures of voting on party lines.

The bill had been favoured to pass since it was plucked from the member’s ballot earlier this month, but few expected the margin to be so convincing.

Numbers in support were bolstered by some National MPs offering support at the first reading but making no promises beyond that.

‘‘I think it’s a legitimate public debate and I think it would be good to have both sides of the case thoroughly heard in public,’’ Cabinet Minister Jonathan Coleman said.

‘‘There are some issues, especially around adoption, where it’s really healthy to talk those things through because I don’t think there has been a lot of information in the public domain.’’

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The vote was initially recorded as 78 in favour after proxy votes for Act Party leader John Banks and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne were not recorded. That was later amended by leave of the House leaving Labour’s Raymond Huo as the sole MP not to cast a vote on the bill.

Prime Minister John Key had a proxy vote recorded in favour, as well as other Cabinet Ministers Paula Bennett, Judith Collins and Steven Joyce.

Prominent MPs from Labour to vote for the bill included both the leader David Shearer and deputy Grant Robertson, as well as the former leadership combination of Phil Goff and Annette King.

Two National MPs – Tim Macindoe and John Hayes - spoke in Parliament against the bill.

Mr Macindoe said same sex relationships were ‘‘intrinsically different’’ so could ‘‘never be regarded as true marriage.’’

‘‘The nature of marriage should not be interfered with,’’ Macindoe said.

Others from National to vote against included deputy Prime Minister Bill English and fellow Cabinet Ministers Tony Ryall, Anne Tolley, Christopher Finlayson, Phil Heatley and Nathan Guy.

But most spoke last night in support.

National’s Nikki Kaye said the bill would give ‘‘dignity and acceptance’’ to a group in society who had only recently been criminalised for the people they loved.

Green MP Kevin Hague said that as a homosexual man he and his partner had once faced being fired from their jobs, arrested and imprisoned because of who they were.

To allow them and other same sex couples to marry would ‘‘right an injustice and harm absolutely no-one’’.

Labour’s David Clark, a former Presbyterian Minister, said he had been persuaded by the arguments in favour and decided to join those in support of the bill.

NZ First leader Winston Peters, however, said the bill should be the subject of a referendum before it could become law.

All six NZ First MPs voted against.

‘‘There is still an assumption in this House that members know better than the public when it comes to issues of morality,’’ Mr Peters said.

‘‘That is an archaic belief that has no place in a modern democracy. This matter is by definition one of public morality ... it must be decided by the public.’’

Ms Wall acknowledged the bill had ‘‘attracted passionate reactions from a number of quarters’’.

But she said it was ‘‘not the state’s role to sanction heterosexuality or homosexuality.’’

‘‘Nor is it the State’s role to judge the marriages of its citizens.’’

How Your MP voted in the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill:

FOR: 80

Amy Adams (N); Jacinda Ardern (L); Chris Auchinvole (N); John Banks (A); Maggie Barry (N); Paula Bennett  (N); Jackie Blue (N); Steffan Browning (G);Gerry Brownlee (N); Cam Calder (N); David Carter (N); Charles Chauvel (L); David Clark (L)David Clendon (G); Jonathan Coleman (N); Judith Collins (N); Clayton Cosgrove (L); David Cunliffe (L); Clare Curran (L); Lianne Dalziel (L); Jacqui Dean (N); Catherine Delahunty (G); Peter Dunne (UF); Ruth Dyson (L); Kris Faafoi (L); Darien Fenton (L); Te Ururoa Flavell (MP); Craig Foss (N); Julie Anne Genter (G); Phil Goff (L); Paul Goldsmith (N); Jo Goodhew (N); Kennedy Graham (G); Tim Groser (N); Kevin Hague (G); Hone Harawira (M); Tau Henare (N); Chris Hipkins (L); Parekura Horomia (L); Gareth Hughes (G); Paul Hutchison (N); Shane Jones (L)
Steven Joyce (N); Nikki Kaye (N); John Key (N); Annette King (L); Iain Lees-Galloway (L); Andrew Little (L); Jan Logie (G); Moana Mackey (L); Nanaia Mahuta (L); Trevor Mallard (L); Mojo Mathers (G); Murray McCully (N); Ian McKelvie (N); Sue Moroney (L)Russel Norman (G);  Hekia Parata (N); David Parker (L); Rajen Prasad (L);Grant Robertson (L); Denise Roche (G); Jami-Lee Ross (N); Eugenie Sage (G); Pita Sharples (MP); David Shearer (L); Scott Simpson (N); Lockwood Smith (N); Maryan Street (L); Rino Tirikatene (L); Chris Tremain (N);
Metiria Turei (G); Tariana Turia (MP); Phil Twyford (L); Nicky Wagner (N); Holly Walker (G); Louisa Wall (L); Kate Wilkinson (N); Maurice Williamson (N); Megan Woods (L)

AGAINST: 40

Shane Ardern (N); Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (N); David Bennett (N); Chester Borrows (N); Simon Bridges (N); Bill English (N); Christopher Finlayson (N); Nathan Guy (N); John Hayes (N); Phil Heatley (N)); Brendan Horan (NZF); Colin King (N); Melissa Lee (N); Asenati Lole-Taylor (NZF);Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga (N); Tim Macindoe (N); Tracey Martin (NZF); Todd McClay (N); Mark Mitchell (N); Alfred Ngaro (N); Damien O'Connor (L); Simon O'Connor (N); Denis O'Rourke (NZF); Winston Peters (NZF); Richard Prosser (NZF); Ross Robertson (L); Eric Roy (N);Tony Ryall (N); Mike Sabin (N); Katrina Shanks (N); Su'a William Sio (L); Nick Smith (N); Barbara Stewart (NZF); Lindsay Tisch (N); Anne Tolley (N); Louise Upston (N); Andrew Williams (NZF); Michael Woodhouse (N); Jian Yang (N); Jonathan Young (N)

Abbreviations.
N - National
L - Labour
NZF - New Zealand First
G - Green
MP - Maori Party
M - Mana
UF - United Future
A - Act

Raymond Huo, Labour, is not recorded as voting either for or against. Since there were no abstentions this suggests he did not vote. This is why the votes add up to 120 in a 121 seat parliament.

- The Dominion Post

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