Gay marriage views too rude to hear

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2013

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Extreme voices have been shut out of the gay marriage debate, with some submissions deemed too offensive to be seen by Parliament.

Rejecting public submissions on a bill on grounds of offence is rare. However, about 10 submissions on the same-sex marriage bill were rejected at the select committee stage, either because of privacy breaches or because they were deemed too offensive.

This means the submissions were not considered or even seen by the committee, and will never be released publicly by Parliament.

The ultra-conservative group Catholic Action was among the rejected submitters. It has previously protested against "blasphemous" art at Te Papa, ripped down church billboards depicting the Virgin Mary taking a pregnancy test, and called New Zealand's Catholic bishops "gutless".

In a statement mirroring its submission yesterday, the group said every MP who voted for same-sex marriage was on "on the road to hell for all eternity".

It also called the committee that considered and supported the same-sex marriage bill "evil".

Group spokesman Arthur Skinner said the rejection of the submission was undemocratic. He defended its strong wording, calling it "papal language".

"It may appear confrontational, but to a Catholic mind it is seen as a form of charity," he said.

Committee chairwoman Ruth Dyson was delegated to weed out offending submissions on the bill.

The Labour MP said some were rejected because they breached privacy, while others were simply too offensive to be made public. "If people are not able to express their opinion in an inoffensive way, they don't need to be considered," she said. She would not comment on who had lodged offensive submissions.

The committee did not see the submissions, but Green MP Kevin Hague helped go through them. He said some possibly offensive submissions were let through, but a small number went too far.

Catholic Action's submission was typical, combining extreme insults aimed at homosexuals with deeply aggressive language.

"It is hard to say how any value would be added to the debate from that, and there could be substantial damage to rational debate by including it."

It was rare for submissions to be rejected as too offensive, he said. "Although it is pretty rare for something like that to be submitted."

Under parliamentary standing orders, select committees have the discretion to reject or return any submissions deemed offensive, defamatory or suppressed.

Constitutional lawyer Matthew Palmer said the committee was within its rights to reject the submissions. "As long as the committee has a full representation of views, there's no real harm done. If people are making irrational, objectionable or bigoted submissions, then there is no reason they need to be listened to."

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The select committee considered 21,533 submissions on the bill, which seeks to legalise same-sex marriage, including 8148 opposing change.

The same-sex marriage bill was expected to pass its second reading with a comfortable majority last night.

- The Dominion Post

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