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New Zealand's Journey to Marriage Equality
A Long Time In The Making
New Zealand is a small country, of just over 4 Million people, in the Southern Hemisphere. A reasonably young country in the scheme of things. Known for being home to a World-Beating Rugby team (the All Blacks), the fabulous Lorde, the location of the filming for Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, Nuclear Free despite being the first to split the atom and creating nuclear reactions for example.
On the 17th of April, 2013, New Zealand became the 13th country in the world to legalise marriage between two people of the same-gender, or Marriage Equality, as the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill passed it's third reading in the New Zealand Parliament 77 ayes to 44 noes. The final step is Royal Assent of this Bill by the Governor-General. This occurred on the 19th April 2013, and marriage licences will be available to those in Same-Sex Relationships (of consenting age) from 19 August 2013.
How It Came To Pass Into Law
The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill came about through a Private Members Bill. These are Bills placed in a Ballot by private Member's of Parliament (MPs). Usually this means that this is not a bill placed by a parlimentary party, but a member (or members) themselves. It is then decided whether the MPs may vote as a conscience vote or whether they must vote along party lines.
It was decided that MPs in New Zealand may vote on this matter in the form of a Conscience Vote. This means that if they were personally or religiously, or felt that their constituents in their electorates were, against Same-Sex marriage and the Political Party they belong to/work for was for it - they were able to vote against marriage equality. Most if not all took into account what their electorates felt on the issue, as well as their own personal feelings.
For such a bill to pass into New Zealand Law, it is required to go through three readings in Parliament, and receive Royal Assent. In this particular case, it was also required to go through the Select Committee for their approval and any changes they felt were required.
The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was placed in the ballot box by Labour MP Louisa Wall on the 30 May 2012 after announcing she would be doing so on the 14 May 2012. This bill was drawn from the Ballot by chance, and received it's First Reading on 29 August 2012, passing 80 to 40, promoting a lot of debate around the issues. The Second Reading occurred 13 March 2013, passed 77 to 44. These readings help to air issues with the Bill, 'ironing out the creases' per say.
Each side of the debate is entitled to their say, in the form of speeches in the Parliamentary House. In New Zealand, this is also televised on Parliamentary Television (Channel 94 on Sky TV, also available on Freeview). At each stage of the process, there were those who were against, and those who were for the Marriage Equality Bill. Nearing the final reading - there were more for than against, however the votes had changed slightly - a slight decrease in "Ayes", and corresponding increases in "No's".
Louisa Wall - The Bill's Author
Louisa Wall, once a prominent Netball player, now a well known Politician for the Labour Party. Louisa identifies as lesbian, and currently has a Civil Union with her partner Prue. They initially had no intention to make use of the Marriage Equality amendment, to get married, however have recently been married Dec 18, 2015. However, Louisa could not stand by and watch as others were denied the rights of marriage.
Maurice Williamson - Epic Speech
Maurice is a long term National MP. His vote was for the Marriage Amendment Bill, a vote sharing by near half of his political party. He has what he says are liberal views on social policy, but conservative economic views. He is known for voting for certain things to happen, before they are accepted by society such as Needle Exchange programs. However, what makes Maurice memorable in this instance is his speech - an impassioned speech that lay to rest some of the issues that he had been questioned about in his position. He has since been invited to speak on the Ellen Degeneres Show. This clip has been viewed over a million times in the last week (prior to writing this hub)
Mojo Mathers - Heartfelt Speech
Mojo's eloquent speech style explained her views on the topic, and why she would be voting yes on this bill. Mojo Mathers is the first MP in Parliament to be profoundly deaf, and strives for the rights of people with disabilities. However it was her daughter who cemented her position on this bill. She is a member of the Green Party, a party in which 100% of it's MPs voted yes on this bill.
New Zealand Way to End Things - With a Song
The Ending Everyone's Talking About
New Zealand is a bi-cultural nation with three national languages - English, Te Reo Maori and NZ Sign Language. It is a Maori cultural tradition to ended speeches with a song particularly on Marae (sacred places for Maori). However, it is not unusual for there to be a song at the end of a proceeding. For us, as NZer's - this ending was what felt right, what felt normal for us. However, to the world it's a little different - can you imagine the US Senate ending in this fashion?
For us, it's just the way it is.
The song is a Maori love song - Pokarekare Ana. Wikipedia does have the english lyrics, however most New Zealanders only know it in Maori, and it means more in Maori somehow.
For me personally - I am proud to be a New Zealander and a gay New Zealander at that. I am proud my country understand that my marriage to my wife will not affect anyone but us. That we will not harm anyone, and by denying equal rights, they are actually doing harm.
I just hope for the sake of my gay "family" - my US and international "Brothers and Sisters" that the rest of the world makes this realisation soon.
UPDATE: We took the step and changed our Civil Union to Marriage on our anniversary. My little family of 3 (two of us, plus our child) is now seen as equal in the eyes of our country. I'm more than happy to be raising our wee one in a country/time that sees all as equal in marriage.
The USA is slowly but surely making it's own moves towards marriage equality. Maybe by the time our child is at school, or a teenager, this business of fighting over whether gay people should be seen as equal in marriage will be looked upon in the same light as the racial tensions and segregation last century is looked upon now.
UPDATE 2 - CONGRATULATIONS AMERICA! SCOTUS ruled 26 June 2015 - that marriage is a constitutional right, and that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional! Welcome to the world of Equality! We, as a human race, still have a long way to go for those who are marginalised for any reason (be it sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, gender etc) to be fully realised and equally - but it is an awesome step forward!