Today, Louisa Wall’s Marriage Equality bill will face its first vote in parliament. A vote that is expected to pass. But there is still a lot of opposition. These opponents, in an attempt to not be perceived as bigoted, claim that they are not against gay marriage but are instead against the redefinition of marriage.
As mentioned in my previous post, marriage has been redefined many times over the course of human history. Divorce, inter-religious marriage and inter-racial marriage have all been legal or illegal at various points. Society is constantly changing and the laws change with us.
There is evidence of same-sex marriages in ancient Rome, Greece and China. The current law does not allow for same sex marriages. Until 1986, homosexuality itself was against the law in New Zealand. A sexual expression of love between two consenting adults, was a crime. These laws in their various forms originate about 200 A.D. during the creation of the Catholic church in Rome when marriage was redefined to specifically exclude anything other than one man and one woman.
It is claimed that Marriage Equality is the doorway to polygamy and under-aged marriage. The bill allows for neither thing. Polygamy isn’t allowed in New Zealand law not for moral reasons, but for practical ones. Marriage provides legal advantages and polygamy would give an unfair advantage. Under-aged marriage is banned in order to protect a child until they are ready to fully comprehend such a commitment. With the Marriage Equality bill, same-sex couples would get no advantage under law and no protection would be removed.
Seven years ago, Civil Unions were introduced to New Zealand as a way to protect the legal rights of same-sex couples. It is argued that due to the presence of Civil Unions, Marriage Equality is unnecessary. This reminds me of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.A., where a black person could drink water as long as it wasn’t from a white-only fountain. They could ride the bus as long as they didn’t sit in the white-only section. Same sex couples can be bound in the eyes of the law, but only if they don’t use heterosexual-only marriage.
More than allowing same-sex marriage, Marriage Equality is about one law for all New Zealanders. Currently, we have two identical laws except for the fact that one kind of discriminates and the other does not. I say “kind of discriminates” because existing New Zealand marriage laws don’t actually state that marriage is between a man and a woman. At the time that our marriage laws were written, homosexuality was illegal. Thus the courts decided that although no specific mention of gender is made, it is assumed that same-sex marriages were not covered.
Opponents want to have marriage both ways, they want it to be both a religious issue and a legal issue but it just can’t work that way. If an issue of religion, it has no place in law and the existing marriage laws should be revoked in favour of a universal civil union law. If an issue of law, it must not discriminate based on race, religion or sexual-orientation. The expression of love and commitment between two consenting adults should not be a crime.
Today’s first vote is likely to pass and I hope that such support will carry through until this bill becomes law. We will redefine marriage to be about love and commitment instead of one penis and one vagina. This is what New Zealand deserves.