We asked Labour's Jacinda Ardern and National's Nikki Kaye: Do you support same-sex marriage?
In 2004, I paid the tiniest of prices to support a really important issue; $20 to be precise. That's how much one thousand people paid to have their names included in a full page ad in a major New Zealand newspaper supporting the civil union bill. I was just one person in what turned out to be a significant movement for change.
I remember the debate around civil unions and the strength of feeling on both sides. I stood amongst the group of people who turned out to counter the Destiny Church rally, where protesters screamed 'enough is enough.' But for me, the issue was clear. It was all about fairness and it was all about choice.
It still surprises me when I hear people catergorise civil unions as a nanny state change made by Labour. I don't think that could be further from the truth. For me, the state has no right to determine who people should and shouldn't be allowed to form relationships with but, until 2005, we did. If a person was in a same sex relationships and their partner fell seriously ill, they could be denied the basic right to see them. Property laws were different, along with a whole raft of things couples take for granted. That wasn't right, nor was it fair.
We may have made a huge step forward when Labour introduced civil unions, but we shouldn't take its place in law for granted. It was only passed by 5 votes and when John Key, who voted against the bill, was asked whether he would do the same again, he refused to answer. In fact,
by Steven Oates of Ponsonby Radio at the Big Gay Out, the best he could muster was at least his Government hadn't "rolled back gay rights."
But none of that means we can't keep moving forward.
Votes in Parliament on issues like civil unions, prostitution and alcohol are generally conscience votes so, just as my vote is my own, so are my views. But if a vote came up tomorrow on the question of gay marriage, I would give my support because of the same principle - fairness.
I don't believe it's for me, the state, or anyone else to determine how a couple wants their relationship recognised; that is for them to decide. But it is absolutely our job to remove the barriers that stop people from having the same choices as everyone else and to ensure we are all treated equally and fairly by the law.
It is equally up to each religious institution to determine their views on this question also. Some would welcome the chance to offer gay marriage, some will not. But again, I don't believe I should be the ultimate arbiter of that decision or stand in the way of allowing it to be made.
I am amongst the lucky. I have never experienced the discrimination and intolerance that members of New Zealand's gay community have or been subject to the inequality in our laws. My price was a mere $20 and I would pay it many times over for the sake of a few more people having what I have- fairness, and choice.
I believe one of the most sacred decisions a person can make is who they choose to love and spend their life with. That the Government could have a say in that by making a moral judgment about who you can and can't have a relationship with is wrong. That is why I would have voted for the Civil Union legislation to enable all NZ couples to have their relationships formally recognised in law.
In 2005 the Civil Union legislation was treated as a conscience issue by most parties to enable Parliamentarians to exercise their personal freedom and vote for what they believe in. The most progress can be made on these issues when Parliamentarians across the house feel that they can freely vote with their conscience.
While I accept and recognise Labour's contribution in progressing gay and lesbian rights, one of the reasons why I support National is that a core principle of the party is personal freedom. People may find it interesting that the first attempt at homosexual law reform was made by National MP Venn Young and that the Human Rights legislation was passed by the last National Government.
I accept that being a champion of freedom is also about accepting that others may hold strong opposing views that they have the right to voice and exercise. The Civil Union legislation was passed with a small majority, reflecting the diverse range of views in Parliament. It enabled both gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples to formalise their relationship.
The Act has been described as very similar to the Marriage legislation with references to "
" replaced by "civil union". A companion bill, the Relationships (Statutory References) Act, was passed as well which removed discriminatory provisions on the basis of relationship status from a range of legislative measures.
As a result of both of these pieces of legislation all New Zealand couples, whether married, in a civil union, or in a
partnership, now generally enjoy the same rights and undertake the same obligations.
From a legal perspective there probably isn't much to be gained by same-sex couples if changes to the law enabled same-sex marriage. It'd be wrong to assume that all gay and lesbian people support same-sex marriage as there are a diverse range of views on this issue.
If legislation came before Parliament I'd vote for it. I understand that for some gay and lesbian people the Civil Unions legislation represented a compromise and enabling same-sex marriage would be hugely symbolic.
The bigger issue for me is the inability of same-sex couples to adopt. The adoption law is outdated, archaic, and there are many anomalies.
For instance non-married couples aren't currently permitted to adopt children, although people in non-marital relationships can adopt as individuals. I feel very sad that many New Zealanders who would make great parents are denied the opportunity to adopt. Everybody loses, including some of our most disadvantaged children.
The guiding principle should be who would be the best parents, not what a person's sexuality is. There are many gay and lesbian parents doing a superb job bringing up children. Our adoption law is a barrier to this opportunity. I sit on a cross-party group organised by Kevin Hague MP looking at the reform of this law.
One of the reasons I have supported a larger LGBT festival in Auckland is that I am concerned about an increase in homophobia. The opportunity of a larger festival not only brings economic benefit but also raises awareness and promotes greater tolerance, respect and diversity.
We have a history of being more progressive than other countries when it comes to personal freedom and I hope that continues, particularly in relation to our adoption and marriage laws.
As our families and relationships change we must ensure NZ law keeps up with those changes, our ability to do this helps cement our record as a democratic, peaceful country who has led the world in our pursuit of freedom.
Do you have a topic you would like Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern to tackle?