Louisa Walls and Colin Craig lean in close. They look into each other’s eyes.”My wife knows I’m here, so it’s all good,” says Louisa, quietly.The moment stretches out. Neither politician blinks. “You can’t psych me out,” Louisa adds. They laugh, the camera shutter clicks quickly several times in succession – and the tension is broken. Forty-year-old Louisa is the MP who, as chair of Labour’s rainbow caucus, took it upon herself to draft a bill to legalise gay marriage. Louisa placed her Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill in the ballot in May. She was riding a global wave. United States President Barack Obama had come out in favour of gay marriage a week earlier, saying gays and lesbians “should be treated fairly and equally”. The next day, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key chimed in. It is already possible for same-sex couples to marry in eight Western European nations, Canada, parts of the United States and Mexico, further south in Argentina, and also in South Africa.
Civil unions are permitted in at least 19 nations, including New Zealand. This year, six countries are expected to vote on going all the way: gay marriage.
But, almost swamped by the surge of liberal excitement, the Catholic Church and other dissenters have quietly made their unhappiness known. Some express discomfort at change to the time-honoured institution of marriage; others admit they are plain uncomfortable with the normalisation of homosexuality.
That opposition will come to the fore this week, when the Government Administration Select Committee calls for public submissions on the Marriage Amendment Bill.