Love does not discriminate
The Marriage Amendment Bill aims to amend marriage legislation to ensure gay couples are not treated in "a discriminatory manner". It passed its first reading and is now open for submissions from the public. In our next piece in a series of opinions, Marriage Equality Campaign co-ordinator Conrad Reyners tells of his own experiences coming out to his father, and the love and support he received when he did. Now, he hopes he'll have the opportunity to walk down the aisle with the man he loves one day if he so chooses.
When I came out to my father he was driving down Cobham Drive on the Wellington Waterfront. I waited until we were halfway through our trip before I told him. I was afraid about how he would react.
I needn't have been. With one eye on the road he turned to me, told me how much he cared for me, and said he would always love me. It was one of the proudest, happiest and most frightening days of my life.
One day I hope to walk up the aisle with the man I love and who I want to grow old with. I hope that it too will be the proudest, happiest but also most frightening day of my life. But above all, I hope that I get the chance to see it happen.
Louisa Wall's marriage equality Bill will define marriage as a "union between two people, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity". It will bring about marriage equality for all New Zealanders and give every Kiwi, whether straight, gay or transgender the chance to have their relationships formally recognised by the state, just like everyone else.
Public polls consistently show widespread public support for marriage equality, especially among youth. It's a reform whose time has come. There are many reasons to support Louisa Wall's Bill, but there are three key points why our MPs should all vote it through.
The first is that marriage is about love. It is about two people committing to themselves for the rest of their lives, and applying to the state to have that emotional bond recognised by the law.
Marriage is not just for procreation - we do not force infertile couples to get divorced - and it is not about religious values - we let atheists marry and marriage ceremonies do not have to be in churches. Instead, marriage is about love which decent, fair-minded Kiwis know does not discriminate.
Marriage is also about the love we have for our families, whanau and our friends. For our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. At the Rally for Marriage Equality in August, human rights campaigner Bill Logan spoke of his elderly mother, her body and mind now feeling the weight of a life well lived. He spoke of her wish to one day welcome into her home her son, and also her son-in-law.
Bill may never end up marrying his partner. But that doesn't matter. What matters is that Bill's mother wants him to have that choice, because she wants her son to be treated like every other New Zealander.
The second reason is that marriage is about fairness.
As Kiwis, we pride ourselves on our egalitarian culture. We think everyone should have a chance, and that everyone deserves a fair go - no matter who they are. Homophobia and homophobic violence are still pressing issues in New Zealand, but gone are the frightening days when they were accepted and normalised. Today, support for such medieval views comes from a tiny few and is rapidly shrinking.
The third is that marriage is about being equal before the law, and ensuring that our laws do not unjustifiably discriminate. We would be horrified if Pakeha New Zealanders could apply to be married under the Marriage Act, but Maori or Pasifika couples were only allowed to apply for a Civil Union. Such a distinction is racist and absurd.
No right-thinking Kiwi would ever support it. But that distinction currently exists between heterosexual and homosexual couples. When put in such stark relief it is clear that our current laws are unequal and unfair. It is not only right, but it is also just that Parliament legislates to fix them.
Finally, we need to remember that removing an historic discrimination against LGBT Kiwis sends a powerful signal. It sends a message that everyone has an equal place in New Zealand society, no matter who they are.
This debate is not easy for some. Many know of friends and family who have been bullied, beaten up or abused just for daring to be themselves. Last year, 20 per cent of queer youth attempted suicide because of the social stigma that comes with being ''different''.
This tragedy must stop. Marriage equality is a vital step for the protection of our whanau and especially for the protection of queer youth.
Together, we have done so much already. The first reading vote was encouraging. But there is still so more to do.
The Campaign for Marriage Equality will not be satisfied until the bill has received Royal Assent. To help that process we are encouraging decent, fair-minded Kiwis to submit on the bill through our website.
Marriage is about love, fairness, and equality before the law. Opening marriage up to everyone is not only just, it is the right thing to do. It's time for our parliamentarians to reform the Marriage Act, and make this historic change happen.
Because on my wedding day, surrounded by friends and family, I want to see my father raise a toast to his new son in law, with a tear in his eye – and in mine.
View all contributions