OPINION: For a bill that was supposed to polarise opinion in this country, the path of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has been a remarkably smooth one.
From the moment Labour MP Louisa Wall had the good fortune to have her private member's bill drawn, dire predictions about the morality of the nation were immediately bandied about.
In reality there have been a few isolated headlines on the subject of allowing same- sex marriage, mainly during the select committee hearings. That was always to be expected, but parliamentarians have already voted 80-40 for it at the first reading, before referring it back to a select committee. That indicates it should pass with little difficulty.
At the time religious opponents flexed their not inconsiderable combined muscle by presenting a petition signed by 50,000 people opposed to marriage equality.
Then there was the reaction from Labour MP Su'a William Sio, who voiced his opposition in Parliament on behalf of his Mangere constituents. They weren't surprises, but the submission from Sensible Sentencing Trust leader Garth McVicar certainly was. When he speaks, many take notice, because his constant advocacy for the rights of victims, rather than offenders, in the legal system has struck a chord with many.
However, that chord can sometimes represent a bum note. Mr McVicar's submission to Parliament that changing the law to allow same-sex marriage would lead to a significant increase in child abuse, domestic violence and prison numbers is misguided at best and possibly homophobic and mischievous at worst.
Mr McVicar reaches his conclusion based merely on the bill being passed. That, in itself, would inevitably lead to even further erosions of basic morals and values in society, he argues. That is a quantum leap of some magnitude and one that simply can't be substantiated.
Just how allowing gay couples to marry could result in such a dramatic impact on New Zealand society has not been explained. That's almost certainly down to the fact that there are no facts.
A vague unease and concern based on applying selective morality does not do Mr McVicar and his organisation any good in the credibility stakes - something that's vital for its continued survival.
It would be a shame if this ill-informed submission was to erode support for the Sensible Sentencing Trust. With many high-profile cases of seemingly soft stances on sentencing and bail being granted by some judges, Mr McVicar and the trust are on reasonably safe ground in being critical of the legal system.
However, support for the trust on those grounds does not automatically transfer to a moral crusade predicting pretty much the end of civilised society.
Mr McVicar's submission was one of more than 20,000 received by the select committee on the bill and almost all of them expressed strong views either for or against it. That was both predictable and understandable. But it is important that we have informed debate on such an important issue. Ill-informed scaremongering does not help.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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