We have all heard how same-sex marriage will not affect “your marriage” or force any religious minister to marry a homosexual couple; how it has nothing to do with polygamy or incestuous relationships or “man-boy love” and so on. But how seriously should we take these assurances? Not very, if New Zealand’s experience is anything to go by.
Civil unions for homosexual and heterosexual couples have been recognised by law in New Zealand since 2005. Today, just a week before a same-sex marriage bill gets its first reading in parliament, pro-marriage group Family First NZ has released statements made by the Labour and Green parties during the passing of the Civil Unions Act which clearly spell out that they understood that marriage was a heterosexual and traditional institution, and that civil unions would be an appropriate alternative.
“We now question why the Labour and Green parties have changed their tune so dramatically. It also raises the issue of the reliability of current statements being made about extending marriage to polygamy and consenting adult incest, the effects of redefining marriage on churches and faith-based organisations, and whether promises made now will be null and void in a few years,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“These quotes call in to question the integrity of the statements made during the civil unions debate, and the arguments being made now for changing the definition of marriage.”
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister):
NZ Herald June 21 2004 “Should people who want to have legal recognition of a marriage be able to get it? The Government says yes, but you can’t marry. Marriage is only for heterosexuals. The Government is not — underline — not, changing the Marriage Act. That will remain as an option only for heterosexual couples.”
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Labour):
1st Reading “I accept that marriage has a traditional and religious heritage, which is why our churches are so protective of it ….Having said that, I utterly reject the idea that the State cannot create an alternative way of recognising couples—be they straight or gay—…”
METIRIA TUREI (Green):
1st Reading “Marriage as understood in our society, and as formalised in law, is a specific culturally and historically bound institution. …This bill does not affect the Marriage Act. It does not change in any way thestructure, the validity, of the institution of marriage.”
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Labour):
1st Reading “The Marriage Act applies only to heterosexual couples. The opponents of the Civil Union Bill feel strongly that that should remain so. The Government respects that view, which is why there is no proposal to change that Act.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour, Associate Minister of Justice):
1st Reading “Through the Civil Union Bill, the Government …is also confirming that in New Zealand marriage remains solely available to a man and a woman. Marriage will continue to be covered by a separate Act and recognised as a separate institution. …The social, religious, and traditional values associated with marriage will remain”
3rd Reading “Marriage remains something available solely to a man and a woman. Civil unions offer an alternative to those unable to marry, or who do not wish to marry.”
Family First is echoing statements made by Labour MP Su’a William Sio calling on the Labour Party to withdraw the Bill and to focus on more urgent issues such as employment, negotiating our way through the recession, restoring Christchurch, and dealing with family poverty.