Labour List MP, Louisa Wall, sponsor of New Zealand’s gay marriage bill
Wednesday night New Zealand time a two-thirds majority of the country’s parliament passed a same-sex marriage bill at its second reading. Four more MPs voted against it than at its first reading, resulting in a vote of 77-44 in favour of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Bill. Many voted by proxy as half the House were absent.
Opponents of the law change are appalled at the speed with which this revolutionary piece of legislation has been railroaded through. Drawn from the ballot in mid-August last year, the private member’s bill had its first reading at the end of August.
Submissions to a select committee on the bill closed October 26. Hearings began in mid-November and were interrupted for over a month by the Christmas-summer break. Only 200 out of nearly 3000 submissions regarded by the committee as having unique content (another 18,635 were considered “form letters”) were actually heard. There were complaints about bias and offhand treatment by opponents of the bill at hearings in front of a committee whose four members were all in favour of the bill.
The committee reported back on February 27 approving the bill and a couple of amendments. Only two weeks were available to have public discussions on the report and recommend further amendments (especially regarding religious freedom and the bill’s effect on adoption of children) before the second reading March 13. Further amendments may be made before the final reading but its main result is a foregone conclusion.
Thus, New Zealanders have had only six months all up in which to grapple with a change to the very bedrock of society — with very little help from the mainstream media. We have the simplest government structure — central government and a single house in the legislature. And although our electoral system is based on proportional representation, this leads to bloc voting on controversial issues (as we have seen with this bill — all the Greens backing it and all of another small party opposing it) and a lack of accountability to the electorate.
This law change can only be a victory for the gay and gender diversity lobby, which has been honing its “arguments” for years, since relatively few ordinary citizens have had the chance or the encouragement to think about it in the depth it deserves and demands.
Polls show a drop in support for the move since the bill was introduced: http://familyfirst.org.nz/2013/03/no-public-mandate-for-gay-marriage-bill/