MPs debate same-sex marriage bill

By APNZ, Herald Gallery staff

Green co-leader Metria Turei and MP Kevin Hague in the House for the final reading of the Marriage Amendment Bill at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Green co-leader Metria Turei and MP Kevin Hague in the House for the final reading of the Marriage Amendment Bill at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand MPs' comments during the debate on the same-sex marriage bill this evening ranged from supportive to wary.

WHAT THEY SAID:

John Banks

Act Leader and social conservative John Banks said he did not believe the God he believed in would think any less of him for voting in favour of the bill.

He also used the principle of freedom to guide him in his decision.

"When making this decision, I had to ask myself: ' Will New Zealanders have more freedoms as a result of this bill? Yes.

"Will freedom of religion be preserved? Yes.

"Will anyone's freedom's be taken away by this bill? No.

"Would the God that I believe in think any less of me for voting for this bill? No.

"That's why I support this legislation."

It was Mr Banks' first speech on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.

Mr Banks has been accused in the past of being homophobic and used to regularly tease gay MPs in the past, for example referring to former Labour MP Chris Carter as Christine Carter.

Tonight he said that he had had three decades in Parliament to reflect on what he had said and what he had done.

"If I knew then what I have learned since, I would have acted differently."

***

Kevin Hague

Green MP Kevin Hague said in his speech in Parliament that he had been with his partner, Ian, for nearly 29 years.

"When we got together it was against the law for us to have sex and express our love.

"The message sent by the law could not have been clearer: we were outsiders. We did not belong.

''... our inferior status is associated with substantially higher rates of suicide, depression, HIV risk, violence, and other risks to health and wellbeing.''

He said there is no longer any room for any middle ground, and the cost of being outsiders was enormous.

Mr Hague said over the years he had campaigned hard for gay rights.

He said marriage was about affirming, reinforcing and celebrating the love two people have for each other, not just to enable procreation.

To him it was also about recognising the value of that commitment to the whole society.

He said the bill would enable legal equality for gay couples.

"With this bill, our Parliament stretches out its arms to my community and says, `our society is big enough for you too. You belong unequivocally and without having to compromise who you are'.

"The consequences of this bill will be that same sex couples will marry, transgendered people will no longer have to divorce, prejudice and violence will be undermined, the world will be a better place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered New Zealanders, and no one will be any worse off.

"Instead what history will record is whether you voted for inclusiveness, equality under the law and pluralism, or against them.''

***

Maurice Williamson

National MP for Pakuranga, Maurice Williamson, congratulated Louisa Wall on the bill and said he would support it.

He said he had received a letter saying the bill was the cause of our drought.

"You will see that in the Pakuranga electorate this morning that it was pouring with rain; we had the most enormous big gay rainbow across our electorate this morning.

"It has to be a sign, Sir, it has to be a sign; if you're a believer.

"The good news about my years in this Parliament is that you learn to deflect all of the dreadful fire and brimstone accusations.''

He said a reverend in his electorate said a gay onslaught would start the day after the bill was passed.

"We're really struggling to think what the gay onslaught will look like.

"We don't know if it will come down the Pakuranga Highway as a series of troops.''

He said another Catholic priest told him he was supporting an unnatural act.

"I found that quite interesting coming from someone who has taking a vow of celibacy for his whole life.''

Mr Williamson said he also had a letter telling him he would burn in hell for eternity.

"So don't make this into a big deal; this is fantastic for the people it effects but for the rest of us life will go on.''

***

Jami-Lee Ross

National's Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross strongly supported the bill to legalise gay marriage, saying he was voting for love, equality, opportunity and for freedom.

"I am voting tonight to give all New Zealanders the same opportunity that I had when I married my wife - the freedom to marry the person I love; a simple concept but one that has been denied to so many people for so long.''

When he was considering how to vote on the bill, the question had never been why should same-sex couples be allowed to marry.

"The question was why on earth shouldn't they be allowed to marry?''

"It just seems daft to me that we could deny people the right to marry simply because they love someone of the same gender. I have yet to hear anyone put forward a rational and a principled reason why it is necessary to deny anyone the right to marry simply because of their sexual orientation.''

***

Winston Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters opened his speech by saying the party believed in referenda.

Mr Peters said there had not been a strong sense of how the public feel about the debate, and that there had hardly been a debate on the issue.

"What we've had is a small, yet vocal, minority telling the rest of New Zealanders that there is a law change that everyone wants.

"And anyone who disagrees has gotta be a bigot.''

He said the truth is most New Zealanders sit somewhere in the middle.

"Their reasons for supporting or opposing it are never as sensationalist or extreme as some on either side would have us believe.''

Mr Peters said there was no huge groundswell for change.

"We object to the people being taken for granted,'' he said.

"The Labour party were hijacked on this issue,'' Mr Peters said.

"This is about democracy and representation and that is why so many Labour supporters are telling us they support our referendum stance.

"Because they feel they've been never been asked, but somehow even more think they have somehow been cheated.

"This is supposed to be a democracy. This is supposed to be a place where the people's voice matters,'' Mr Peters said.

***

Tau Henare

National list MP Tau Henare followed Mr Peters and slammed his speech saying it was the biggest "shyster' speech he had ever heard.

Mr Henare was Mr Peters' former deputy leader in New Zealand First and said the referendum on superannuation held in 1997 had never been to the caucus.

He said Mr Peters thought it was okay for his party to have private members' bills in the ballots but others' bills had to go to a referendum.

He wondered who should decide whether an issue went to a referendum or not.

"Him? I hope not, because we would still be in the 1880s."

He said he felt sad he had been a members of New Zealand First and Mr Peters' deputy leader.

"I used to look up to him. But that speech tonight is nothing more than ...pandering to those racists, red-necked people that just get on the email."

He did not believe that those who voted against the bill were homophobic but he did not agree with them.

***

Chester Borrows

National MP for Whanganui, Chester Borrows, said he had changed his view, but would still not vote for the bill.

"I believe people who love one another should be with one another and should commit to one another publicly.

"I also believe that the true discussion here is about the legal equality of relationships; whether they be heterosexual or whether they be homosexual, whether they be marriage of civil union, or de facto. I believe they should be equal.

"I am also of the opinion that those people who have come out and argued from a strident faith perspective are wrong in themselves.

"I will be voting against this bill because I think we should be having the larger debate, and that debate is about what is marriage and what is not marriage,'' said Mr Borrows.

Mr Borrows said that two people who are of the same gender would not detract from the 34-year marriage that he and his wife enjoy.

"I am concerned about the status of those civil celebrants and those celebrants of organisations such as the Anglican and Methodist church who have not taken a stand or a position in respect of this particular bill.

"They should be able to rest in the confidence that the human rights commissioner has given them; they will be able to refuse the opportunity to wed gay couples who present themselves for marriage, on the basis of their own opinion and own belief.''

"I would like to acknowledge that I came to this house as a fairly ignorant person, out of the provinces in order to represent the constituency of Whanganui who elected me to Parliament.

"I am pleased to note that I have established a number of relationships and I have changed my mind in respect of those relationships. I am grateful for the privilege of having friendships of a number of people.''

***

Kris Faafoi

Labour MP for Mana, Kris Faafoi, said there was more than one Pacific perspective in Parliament and in New Zealand.

"To my fellow Pacific members of Parliament, I respect your choice - to those in the Pacific community who oppose this bill, I respect your beliefs.

"I hope you respect and understand my choice and my strongly held beliefs.

"The belief driving my choice, and my opinion, is more prevalent but not restricted to younger Pacific Islanders.

"It is no way meant to be disrespectful or a challenge to our elders. In fact in my mind, my strongly held views derive from the strong Pacific values that have been passed onto me by my parents and family.

"Our gay community is gay and vibrant.

"They too have battled, and like all other Kiwis they deserve the full enjoyment of the values of family, love, inclusion, equality and respect.''

Mr Faafoi said he respected the strong religious veins in the Pacific community.

"Many young gay Pacific Islanders have found this debate difficult, many have grown up and maintained strong religious beliefs - they told me one of the hardest things in the public debate has been hearing the God that they worship seems to see them differently. My god does not.''

***

Grant Robertson

Labour's Deputy Leader and MP for Wellington Central Grant Robertson invoked the memory of murdered US gay rights activist Harvey Milk the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the US.

A strong advocate for gay rights who once said: "I know that you cannot live on hope alone but without it life is not worth living."

He referred to how, as a 14 year old gay man living in Dunedin 1986 he followed the 1986 debate over law to decriminalise homosexuality.

"That gave him - me - hope that maybe his life would be alright."

He gave thanks to those who voted in favour, including current colleagues such as Annette King, Trevor Mallard and Peter Dunne.

"Thank you for giving me that hope."

He noted the vote had made for some unlikely political bedfellows such as National's Tau Henare and Jamie Lee Ross who had helped advance the legislation.

"Tonight we take further steps towards the inclusive steps towards the inclusive society that New Zealand can and should be this legislation makes us a better country.

He said if there was a 14 year old young man in Dunedin who was watching the debate, he hoped it would fulfill Harvey Milk's plea.

"What we will do in this house tonight is give him some hope because in this house tonight, hope has won."

***

Nikki Kaye

Auckland Central's National MP Nikki Kaye said given it was almost 30 years since the Homosexual Law Reform Act, "20,000 submissions, 121 MPs tonight have the power to finally vote to give all New Zealanders the freedom to marry the person they love".

"This change will be hugely positive for our country."

"This is about the young man who has not yet come out to his friends having the courage to do so. This is about the couple who have been together for 30 years having the chance to say I do. This is about a large group of New Zealanders holding their head little higher down the street."

"It is time we passed this bill. It is the right thing to do."

***

Jonathan Young

National's New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, speaking against the bill, said the debate was "not as clear as many people think."

"I think that there are views and issues that many people, New Zealanders in our community, are struggling with, are wondering about and are looking to this House tonight. I believe our society is probably more divided than this House is on this issue."

It was appropriate that diverse views were expressed in Parliament, he said.

"But it's how we disagree that is important and by and large this debate has been calmer than many other debates in this House."

Nevertheless Mr Young expected the bill would pass despite his vote.

He talked of how he'd supported the civil union legislation.
"Your relationship is your business and I've been happy to support that."

But his views were informed by the "importance of tradition".

"My view is that history and tradition have invested significant meaning into the term marriage and I believe that we need to maintain its current meaning."

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