This Friday, 26th October, is the final day for submissions on the Marriage Equality Bill before parliament, which seeks to allow anyone who wishes to, regardless of sex, gender identity or sexuality, marry their partner.
The Hand Mirror has covered this in spades – Scube has updated us and described debates; Julie explained why she doesn’t feel her marriage is “under attack”; Anthea has written about the limits of how this debate is happening. And I weighed in on looking at social change.
To submit, or not to submit, that is the question. Well, even if this isn’t a burning issue for you – or any of your family, your friends, your colleagues, your sportsmates, your ex-lovers, your current lovers – even if this isn’t a burning issue for you, if you broadly support Marriage Equality, it would be great if you could say so.
Because the people who don’t like queer people, who want control over what “family” means and who it includes, who say that marriage is “nature’s way” of giving roles to women and men – well, those people will be submitting. Family First have distributed 100,000 pamphlets on why inequality is fine, and currently have 40,000 people on their mailing list. Bob McCroskie says their handy guide to submitting against the Bill has received “overwhelming” demand.
So submit. Even if you don’t want to get married yourself. Because if we don’t, then those in Parliament who wish to pretend Marriage Equality is unpopular will be able to do so.
Dear Select Committee Members,
I came out as bisexual twenty-four years ago, when I was eighteen. Over that time the legislative framework in New Zealand and other places I have lived has changed dramatically in terms of sexuality.
In my first relationship with a woman, I could still have been sacked because of my sexuality. I wasn’t – but on one occasion potential employers told me, after my interview, that another member of staff had threatened to resign if I was employed, because of my sexuality.
I didn’t get the job.
In my first long-term relationship with a woman, if she had been violent, abusive or controlling to me, it would not, yet, have been recognised by the law as domestic violence. I would not, yet, have been able to seek the legal protections the state offers.
When I first wanted to live with a female partner, she could not stay in New Zealand, yet, solely on the basis of our relationship. Unlike my mother, who could come to New Zealand with my father, more than twenty years earlier, just because of their relationship.
And now, if I wish to, I can not marry a female partner.
New Zealand sees ourselves as progressive, as world leaders in equality. In terms of sexuality, there is some truth in this – some queer people are protected by the Human Rights Act (though this misses trans* and gender identity discrimination). New Zealand is one of the safest places I have visited or lived in terms of being able to express affection towards a same-sex partner in public, at least if you are female.
But we have a long way to go.
The debates over this Bill illustrate why. There are still many who believe queer people should not have the same rights as heterosexual New Zealanders. That our relationships are less legitimate. That we should not be able to parent if we wish to. There are still many New Zealanders, sadly, who do not recognise that when one group has rights denied to another, that is discrimination, pure and simple.
And discrimination both reflects and recreates hatred.
It is a nonsense to say that the Marriage Equality Bill does anything but remove discrimination. It doesn’t have any impact on existing marriages between opposite sex partners – those marriages are still good, bad or indifferent depending on the people involved and how they behave. It doesn’t force anyone to marry who doesn’t wish to – no doubt not all queer people will wish to marry, just as not all opposite sex couples marry now.
At the moment, our legislation around marriage treats some kinds of relationship as more equal than others. I believe in twenty years time, this debate will be looked back on with incredulity, just as we now think it is incredible than consenting sexual acts between men were criminal less than thirty years ago.
Please change our laws to allow those who wish to marry to do so – whatever their sex, gender identity or sexuality. Thank you.