Marry, a veritable challenge for our parliamentarians

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A select committee is considering 20,000 submissions on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, which would legalise gay marriage in New Zealand. Here are alternative views from submitters.

Two sides weigh in on the issue. Photo / Thinkstock
Two sides weigh in on the issue. Photo / Thinkstock

Pro: Jenny Rowan and Jools Joslin

The question before us today is why should we, as a same-sex couple, be allowed to marry?

The answer is simple: because there is provision under the Marriage Act for any other couples to marry, and we simply want equality. To choose to marry if we wish to. Not being allowed the right to marry is, without question, fundamental discrimination, which is unjustifiable in a fair and just society.

We have six adult children between us and four grandsons. We have been together for 25 years and we were legally married in Canada on August 5, 2006. Our love for each other is stronger now than ever.

Our nuptial journey started when we applied for a marriage licence in 1996 and were denied the application by the then-marriage registrar in Wellington. With a Marriage Act at that time that was neutral on the subject of gender, we decided there was no legal barrier to our application and we should appeal.

The decision from the Court of Appeal is known as the Quilter case. This ruling found that because the meaning of marriage is so well understood to be between and man and a woman, the then-Marriage Act 1955 could not be interpreted to give same-sex couples access to marriage. It also concluded that if there were to be any changes to the law to give same-sex couples access to marriage, it was up to Parliament to consider and make those changes.

With the Court of Appeal and the Government in effect denying discrimination under the Bill of Rights, the next stage of the journey open to us was to go to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Disappointingly, the committee further endorsed the Court of Appeal's view that marriage was intended to be between a man and a woman.

Thus ended a long, tedious and expensive legal appeal process for us that continued, at every step, to endorse the inherently discriminatory nature of the right to marry.

Subsequently, in 2004, New Zealand attempted to tackle the issue with the civil union debate. We did not agree with this approach and submitted to the justice electoral committee, strongly objecting to the bill. The issues are still about equality, personal dignity and the right, as an adult New Zealander, to choose to marry.

The decision to pass this bill and bring all New Zealand citizens into line on an equal footing will require courage. By providing equal access for all couples to choose to marry, you have the chance to make provision for a fair and just society, supporting stable, committed relationships for all citizens, a stronger, loving environment for all our children to grow up in, and in turn strengthened, inclusive and sustainable communities.


Anti: The Rev Viliami Finau, Chairman of the Wellington Tongan Leaders' Council

The definition of the marriage bill seeks to amend the Marriage Act of 1955 to ensure the provisions are not applied in a discriminatory manner - to make it clear that two people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose.

We argue that redefining the word "marriage" is still discriminatory. Why are under-14s not allowed the opportunity to marry if they so choose? What about father and daughter? Mother and son? If marriage is a fundamental human right, then why are we limiting it to only two people? Why are we not allowing three or more people to marry if they so choose?

Marriage represents the foundation of human social order. Institutions, governments, religious fervour and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability. When it is weakened or undermined, the entire superstructure begins to wobble.

Admittedly, there have been periods in history where homosexuality has flourished, such as in the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire. None of these civilisations survived.

Gender distinctions are important. Men and women complement each other physically and emotionally. Nature is exclusive in that only the union of a man and woman can produce another life. Not only are they the right people to produce children, they should be responsible for raising them in a loving environment.

Every child has the right to a mum and dad. Marriage between a man and a woman says to the child that the mum and dad who made you will be there to raise you. Although death and divorce may prevent it, evidence shows that children do best with a married mother and father.

Tongan culture is based on Christian values, and marriage is between a man and a woman. If this bill is passed, it will destroy our cultural values.

The roles of men and women in our extended families are unique. For instance, in a wedding the father's family will play one role and the mother's family another. They also complement one another at a funeral or kava ceremony.

If two men are allowed to marry, not only will it bring shame to the family but the confusion of who should do what in the cultural activities.

Passing this bill would do harm to our cultural values and would bring confusion to our family structure.

Marriage rightly discriminates - both sides of this debate agree that there should be limits to who can marry.

There is no need to redefine marriage to achieve equality - civil union law protects the rights of gay and de facto couples.


Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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