Marriage rights battle heating up

NZ Herald 25 Aug 2012
Monique and Mahara take turns to cuddle six-month-old Jamie: mum, mum and baby, plus Jazz the dog, make a modern family. Though, as the same-sex marriage debate continues, some would vehemently disagree this nuclear unit living quietly in suburban Auckland is a proper family. Monique and Mahara have been together eight years, wear rings demonstrating their commitment and say they are engaged, though they never followed through on a Civil Union. They are glad they didn’t now because if Labour MP Louisa Wall’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage passes, they would rather get married. Marriage itself is not the drawcard, the women say, but they would like the right to get married because this would mean they were being treated the same as everyone else.

The issue for them is equality of human rights. The mood toward same-sex marriage has softened since the law for Civil Unions was passed in 2004. Some of those who were against Civil Unions are now supportive of same-sex marriage and supporters of Wall’s bill now include Prime Minister John Key. Around the world a handful of other countries, along with six states in America, have already legalised same sex marriage. Monique and Mahara say the sky is yet to fall in. But there are passionate opponents, and among those who object in this country is Family First’s Bob McCoskrie who sums up the argument for many who are opposed. He says a family consists of a mother and a father and that marriage encourages the rearing of children by the mother and father who conceived them. Given that all sorts of people already cannot marry, McCoskrie’s argument goes that if same-sex marriage was legalised then what next? “A 5-year old boy cannot marry,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Herald. “Three people cannot get married to each other. A married man can’t marry another person. Two old aunties living together cannot marry. A father cannot marry his adult daughter. A football team cannot enact group marriage – the list is endless. It is disingenuous to complain about rights being taken away, when they never existed in the first place.”

As of yesterday, more than 40,000 people had signed Family First’s online petition at its protect marriage website. The Catholic Church in New Zealand fired up its opposition, too, with a letter from its bishops aimed at Generation Y which used the words of Jesus to argue marriage should not be redefined: “From the beginning of creation ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Marriage is not merely a human construction, the bishops wrote, it is the legal recognition of something natural. Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian clergy hit back at the Catholics, saying marriage had been expressed in many different forms over the centuries.

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