The 50th Parliament of New Zealand will soon consider the issue of same-sex marriage. Labour MP Louisa Wall's Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was yesterday drawn from the Members' Bill ballot, and will have its First Reading, possibly as early as late August.
There is an inevitability about same-sex marriage being legalised, but that does not mean that the New Zealand Parliament ought necessarily fast-track this piece of legislation, which is bound to be contentious.
Where do we stand on the issue? Those who accuse us of being a fundy Christian (a term that is bandied about so much that its meaning has been blurred) may be surprised to learn that we support this Bill passing a First Reading, and going to a select committee for an extensice period of consultation and submissions. The select committee will have the opportunity to canvass the views of a wide range of New Zealanders, not just those with a vested interest who will doubtless flood the committee with submissions.
Beyond that however, Parliament should be guided by the views of the people whom the MP's are elected to represent. And just because the issue of same-sex marriage is the current "hot topic", it does not follow that Parliament should rush this piece of legislation through without an appropriate level of scrutiny.
The lobby pushing for same-sex marriage yesterday was elated that Louisa Wall's Bill had been drawn. But we found some of the comments in social media just a little disturbing. The Parliament rarely votes according to the conscience of MP's. The Oxford Dictionary defines conscience thus:
Definition of conscience
There were numerous suggestions yesterday from same-sex marriage activists and their supporters that those who oppose this Bill are being offensive or bigoted. We totally reject that view. We are a free and fair society, and the right to hold a certain belief is inherent to our democracy. MP's such as Damian O'Connor and Ross Robertson (Labour), Bill English and Tim Macindoe (National), Hone Harawira (Mana) and Richard Prosser and Asenati Lole-Taylor (NZ First) are among those who have indicated tht they oppose same-sex marriage for various reasons. They are perfectly entitled to hold those views without bullying, intimidation or name-calling.