Do you think same-sex couples should be allowed to marry?
West-Coast Tasman MP Damien O'Connor is not keen, Nelson MP Nick Smith is sitting on the fence but his Labour opponent Maryan Street is firmly backing the "marriage equality" bill surprisingly sprung on Parliament yesterday.
Ms Street, who is gay, said for her the question was a "no-brainer" even though she would not seek marriage if the law was changed.
"It's a matter of human rights and equality before the law."
When in government, Labour had amended more than 120 laws in the wake of the civil union legislation to ensure equality, but marriage and adoption had lingered on for many in the gay world who felt discriminated against simply because of their sexuality. "Those days are over."
However, she didn't want marriage for herself.
"I would be perfectly happy with a civil union - but I haven't done that either. For me this is an issue of principle, not of personal gain."
Dr Smith said the issue was "a very difficult one that I haven't given careful consideration to".
He wanted to consult the Nelson electorate and study the detail of the bill before making a decision, and would include a question in his annual electorate survey.
"The complex issue here is that Parliament has provided for civil unions, they give all the legal rights to gay couples as marriage. This is now an argument of presentation rather than law as to whether gay couples can use the same terminology as a man and woman who are married."
Mr O'Connor said he too wanted to see the bill before making a decision.
"It's not been the highest thing on my agenda and I haven't had time to look at the bill properly, nor spend much time thinking about it. I consider we've got a lot of other things of higher priority."
Without seeing the bill it was "a bit unfair to make a judgment right at this moment" but he was "probably leaning against it", Mr O'Connor said.
Divided opinions emerged quickly yesterday on Labour MP Louisa Wall's bill, which was plucked from a ballot of more than 60 member's bills and will be subject to a conscience vote as early as next month. “This bill is based on the premise that everyone should have equal opportunity to recognise their relationship within the social and legal institution of marriage," Ms Wall said.
"It will ensure that all New Zealanders have the right to marry regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity."
Ms Wall won the immediate support of her leader David Shearer, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and all 14 Green MPs.
Prime Minister John Key - who in 2004 voted against civil unions - had already followed the lead of United States President Barack Obama and announced in May he would vote for the first reading of a gay marriage bill.
Mr Key is one of 20 MPs still in Parliament who voted against the civil union bill. Among them, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne also yesterday hinted at a shift in their views.
"I think that I have a better perspective [now] 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," Mrs Turia said.
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira had, as recently as last month, stated he was against gay marriage but yesterday promised to vote for the first reading of Ms Wall's bill .
Several National MPs were yesterday reluctant to be pinned down to a position on gay marriage.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, a Catholic, said the issue was "not that important" and he "thought the problem had been solved" with the introduction of civil unions in 2004.
Fourth-ranked Cabinet minister Steven Joyce said he had "not given it a moment's thought".
Only a handful of MPs were prepared to openly declare they were against the bill. National's Chester Borrows cited religious beliefs and NZ First MP Richard Prosser said he would vote against to "preserve the institution of marriage".
Several countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Mexico, have mandated gay marriage.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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