Protest over gay comments

By Mike Dinsdale


A gay marriage bill is dividing communities in Northland with same-sex couples saying it is already causing outrage, and pupils protesting against their Catholic principal's comments.

Pompallier Catholic College principal Richard Stanton's views in the school newsletter on the gay marriage bill have resulted in a protest from some pupils and their parents.

A Facebook page, "Support Gay Rights at Pom" has been set up and pupils have expressed outrage at his comments.

Some students plan a silent protest at the school today, by wearing rainbow ribbons or armbands to show their support for gay marriage.

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill is expected to pass its first reading in Parliament this week.

Mr Stanton said he stood by his comments, which included concern that gay married parents might subsequently view children as a right, and not a gift from God.

He is opposed to the bill on religious and educational reasons, and said that he was not anti-gay, but he was against changing the definition of marriage.

"My religious objection is aligned with church doctrine on marriage being a sacrament and open to new life. My objection as an educator comes from my personal and professional experience within secondary schools," he said.

One pupil told the Northern Advocate: "My main concern is that those are [Mr Stanton's] personal views, but it's written in our school newsletter as if that's the views of the school and the students ... and it's not".

Meanwhile, a Northland lesbian couple who have eight children are outraged at a petition opposing the bill at a church group some of their kids attend.

Claire Southern said that she and her partner Kerrie Vasey took the petition personally. They made their views clear when they took one of their children to a music group at Ruawai Presbyterian Community Church recently.

The couple wrote an open letter to the church, and its community, expressing their concern, but as yet had not had any response from the church.

"I wonder how many that have signed this petition have actually read the bill ... and have given full consideration to the implications of the petition.

"We were always of the understanding that the church was a community church and that all members of the community were welcome," Ms Southern said.

"We cannot see how a campaign that is against our basic human right to have equality can be anything but a personal attack on our family."

As a result of the petition the couple felt they could no longer attend the church group.

Church Pastor Mthunzi Siwela said as the letter was written to the church's congregation, rather than the church directly, he would not respond to the women's concerns.

"I think the best way for them would have been to come and talk to me directly if they had concerns.

"My door is always open," Mr Siwela said.

- Northern Advocate

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