Why we must embrace marriage equality

Last updated 14:30 03/10/2012
Keri Henare Stuff Nation
Auckland web Developer Keri Henare.

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The Marriage Amendment Bill aims to amend marriage legislation to ensure gay couples are not treated in "a discriminatory manner". It has passed its first reading and is now open for submissions from the public.

In our next piece in a series of opinions, Auckland web Developer Keri Henare says marriage equality "isn't just about gay marriage, it's about defining the moral spirit of New Zealand".

I've always had a strong sense of balance and equality. Astrologists might attribute it to my Libra star sign, but I think that it's a mix of being the second of four children and having an over-developed sense of empathy.

At the age of about 8-years-old, despite attending a Catholic church and school, this trait led me to leave all religious belief behind and start the creation of my own moral code.

The cornerstone of my morality is a phrase of wisdom from mum: "Treat others the way you'd want them to treat you."

Diversity is one of the things that makes New Zealand great. My friends are a group of many races, religions and sexual orientations, and I love them all equally.

I've defended friends against the venom of discrimination and hatred many times but it always surprises me how accepted and normalised homophobia is.

I am straight and I love a wonderful woman. I have nothing to gain or to loose from Louisa Wall's Marriage Amendment bill. And yet I find myself compelled to defend and support this legislation. Marriage equality isn't about gay marriage, it's about defining the moral spirit of our nation.

New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. We recognised that thousands of years of cultural and religious belief could not stand in the way of equality. It's time to do that again.

Many opponents in the marriage equality debate will speak of tradition and the way that marriage has been defined for almost two thousand years. However, New Zealand is a nation that is always looking forward and we can't risk being dragged into the past.

About 60 per cent of New Zealanders support marriage equality but what is far more important is that among young New Zealanders, aged 17 - 24, support increases to 80 per cent. Parliament must create laws that reflect the future of New Zealand and not the past.

While the past should not define our future, it does have a lot to teach us. Discrimination stains every step of humanity's social evolution.

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We look back on the days when a couple could not marry due to being from different races with the benefit of hindsight.

We think about how absurd it was to even discuss such things.

That same absurdity applies to the current debate and generations to come will think of us as cavemen.

Those who argue against marriage equality also fought against civil unions and the decriminalisation of homosexuality. They foretold of a future of moral decay.

Instead we have seen more tolerance and acceptance. History teaches us that every time we choose to treat others the way that we wish to be treated, we strengthen the moral spirit of New Zealand.

If you love someone, you want to marry them regardless of their race or religion. So before you try to stop others from marrying the one that they love, remember that they support your right to marry the one that you love.

They just want the same support in return.

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