Two Canty MPs vote against gay marriage bill

Last updated 09:09 30/08/2012
Gay marriage cartoon
Al Nisbet

COMMENTARY: The vote on gay marriage has attracted a diversity of comment and satire.

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Only two Canterbury MPs voted against the gay marriage bill, passed last night in a near-landslide vote.

NZ First MPs Denis O'Rourke and Richard Prosser voted no in the conscience vote on Labour MP Louisa Wall's bill, which passed by 80 votes to 40 last night before a packed public gallery at Parliament.

Previously undecided MPs Clayton Cosgrove and Gerry Brownlee both supported the first reading of the Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill.

Canterbury MPs who voted in favour also included Amy Adams, David Carter, Lianne Dalziel, Ruth Dyson, Mojo Mathers, Eugenie Sage, Nicky Wagner, Kate Wilkinson, and Megan Woods.

The bill will now be considered by a select committee before facing two further votes before it can pass in to law.

However, Prime Minister John Key has this morning warned the debate will get "tougher and nastier".

Speaking from Rarotonga, where he is attending the Pacific Islands Forum, Key today said the "overwhelming result" was bigger than he expected and put the bill in a strong place to become law.

But he said a number of MPs had voted to enable public debate on the issue and were likely to change their minds at subsequent second and third readings.

It will be six to 12 months before Parliament faces a final vote on the bill.

"My experience of these things is they get quite ferocious and they're emotional and both sides of the debate are likely to be engaging in some fairly heavy duty correspondence."

Key said he had encouraged his MPs to do what they believed was right. "I'm not looking at who's voting one way or another, I'm not judging them on it."

The lobby group Family First opposes the bill and said this morning the real debate on same sex marriage began now.

Spokesman Bob McCroskrie said there was "huge" pressure on MPs to support last night's vote.

"I think the politicians aren't ready for the conflict just yet of standing up and voting against it."

Family First saw its role as giving politicians the "conviction and the courage" to retain the current definition of marriage.

"Only 20 MPs need to change their vote and it will be defeated. I think there are swing voters in Labour and National parties who are open to debate and willing to listen to both sides."

It was important the debate remained respectful and didn't become personal, he said.

Wall today acknowledged she had a big job ahead of her to get the bill passed into law.

The select committee process would enable scrutiny of "factually incorrect" suggestions such as a legal opinion distributed by Family First that said church ministers would be forced to marry same sex couples.

Pacific and ethnic MPs were likely to come under particular pressure, she said. "I'm willing to go to any of those Pacific and ethnic sector engagements. It will be about me trying to find leaders in the community where I can explain what my bill is about and reassure them that their values and beliefs wouldn't be compromised."

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Wall said she was heartened by late support by previously undecided MPs. "Gerry Brownlee's vote was just outstanding."

BREAKING RANKS

Labour MP Su'a William Sio, who controversially broke ranks with most of his caucus colleagues and warned the measure could spark a backlash against his party, spoke against the bill last night.

"It is a difficult issue and the views are very divided," Sio said.

Many believed that some other legislation should be used to strengthen same sex rights rather than changing marriage laws, he said.

"By passing this legislation we not only change the definition of marriage, we change it’s meaning and the fundamental basis of marriage. This change will have enduring ramifications for future generations."

Dozens of MPs sought a call to speak on the bill, with MPs freed from the usual strictures of voting on party lines.

The bill had been favoured to pass since it was plucked from the member’s ballot earlier this month, but few expected the margin to be so convincing.

Numbers in support were bolstered by some National MPs offering support at the first reading but making no promises beyond that.

"I think it’s a legitimate public debate and I think it would be good to have both sides of the case thoroughly heard in public," Cabinet Minister Jonathan Coleman said.

"There are some issues, especially around adoption, where it's really healthy to talk those things through because I don't think there has been a lot of information in the public domain."

The vote was initially recorded as 78 in favour after proxy votes for Act Party leader John Banks and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne were not recorded. That was later amended by leave of the House leaving Labour's Raymond Huo as the sole MP not to cast a vote on the bill.

Prime Minister John Key had a proxy vote recorded in favour, as well as other Cabinet Ministers Paula Bennett, Judith Collins and Steven Joyce.

Prominent MPs from Labour to vote for the bill included both the leader David Shearer and deputy Grant Robertson, as well as the former leadership combination of Phil Goff and Annette King.

Two National MPs - Tim Macindoe and John Hayes - spoke in Parliament against the bill.

Macindoe said same sex relationships were "intrinsically different" so could "never be regarded as true marriage".

"The nature of marriage should not be interfered with," Macindoe said.

Others from National to vote against included deputy Prime Minister Bill English and fellow Cabinet Ministers Tony Ryall, Anne Tolley, Christopher Finlayson, Phil Heatley and Nathan Guy.

But most spoke last night in support.

National’s Nikki Kaye said the bill would give ‘‘dignity and acceptance’’ to a group in society who had only recently been criminalised for the people they loved.

Green MP Kevin Hague said that as a homosexual man he and his partner had once faced being fired from their jobs, arrested and imprisoned because of who they were.

To allow them and other same sex couples to marry would ‘‘right an injustice and harm absolutely no-one’’.

Labour’s David Clark, a former Presbyterian Minister, said he had been persuaded by the arguments in favour and decided to join those in support of the bill.

NZ First leader Winston Peters, however, said the bill should be the subject of a referendum before it could become law.

All six NZ First MPs voted against.

"There is still an assumption in this House that members know better than the public when it comes to issues of morality," Peters said.

"That is an archaic belief that has no place in a modern democracy. This matter is by definition one of public morality ... it must be decided by the public."

Wall acknowledged the bill had "attracted passionate reactions from a number of quarters".

But she said it was "not the state’s role to sanction heterosexuality or homosexuality."

"Nor is it the State’s role to judge the marriages of its citizens."

How Your MP voted in the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill:

FOR: 80

Amy Adams (N); Jacinda Ardern (L); Chris Auchinvole (N); John Banks (A); Maggie Barry (N); Paula Bennett  (N); Jackie Blue (N); Steffan Browning (G); Gerry Brownlee (N); Cam Calder (N); David Carter (N); Charles Chauvel (L); David Clark (L); David Clendon (G); Jonathan Coleman (N); Judith Collins (N); Clayton Cosgrove (L); David Cunliffe (L); Clare Curran (L); Lianne Dalziel (L); Jacqui Dean (N); Catherine Delahunty (G); Peter Dunne (UF); Ruth Dyson (L); Kris Faafoi (L); Darien Fenton (L); Te Ururoa Flavell (MP); Craig Foss (N); Julie Anne Genter (G); Phil Goff (L); Paul Goldsmith (N); Jo Goodhew (N); Kennedy Graham (G); Tim Groser (N); Kevin Hague (G); Hone Harawira (M); Tau Henare (N); Chris Hipkins (L); Parekura Horomia (L); Gareth Hughes (G); Paul Hutchison (N); Shane Jones (L)
Steven Joyce (N); Nikki Kaye (N); John Key (N); Annette King (L); Iain Lees-Galloway (L); Andrew Little (L); Jan Logie (G); Moana Mackey (L); Nanaia Mahuta (L); Trevor Mallard (L); Mojo Mathers (G); Murray McCully (N); Ian McKelvie (N); Sue Moroney (L); Russel Norman (G);  Hekia Parata (N); David Parker (L); Rajen Prasad (L);Grant Robertson (L); Denise Roche (G); Jami-Lee Ross (N); Eugenie Sage (G); Pita Sharples (MP); David Shearer (L); Scott Simpson (N); Lockwood Smith (N); Maryan Street (L); Rino Tirikatene (L); Chris Tremain (N); Metiria Turei (G); Tariana Turia (MP); Phil Twyford (L); Nicky Wagner (N); Holly Walker (G); Louisa Wall (L); Kate Wilkinson (N); Maurice Williamson (N); Megan Woods (L)

AGAINST: 40

Shane Ardern (N); Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (N); David Bennett (N); Chester Borrows (N); Simon Bridges (N); Bill English (N); Christopher Finlayson (N); Nathan Guy (N); John Hayes (N); Phil Heatley (N)); Brendan Horan (NZF); Colin King (N); Melissa Lee (N); Asenati Lole-Taylor (NZF); Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga (N); Tim Macindoe (N); Tracey Martin (NZF); Todd McClay (N); Mark Mitchell (N); Alfred Ngaro (N); Damien O'Connor (L); Simon O'Connor (N); Denis O'Rourke (NZF); Winston Peters (NZF); Richard Prosser (NZF); Ross Robertson (L); Eric Roy (N);Tony Ryall (N); Mike Sabin (N); Katrina Shanks (N); Su'a William Sio (L); Nick Smith (N); Barbara Stewart (NZF); Lindsay Tisch (N); Anne Tolley (N); Louise Upston (N); Andrew Williams (NZF); Michael Woodhouse (N); Jian Yang (N); Jonathan Young (N)

- Fairfax Media

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