Me and Marriage Equality

So here’s a sample of the kind of thing MPs are receiving in our inboxes:

EXACTLY WHAT ARE GAYS #4

WHO SAYS WE NEED ‘OFFICIAL MARRIAGE’ FOR INSECURE HOMOSEXUALS?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH CIVIL UNION?

OR FOR EXTREME INSECURITY, MAYBE CASTRATION COULD RELIEVE THEIR ANXIETY

(IT DID FOR MY DOG) (BE LIKE GENETIC ENGINEERING TOO).

OR PERHAPS SUGGEST THEY GET ‘MARRIED’ IN UGANDA INSTEAD.

BE ALMOST WORTH IT TO PAY THEIR ONE WAY FARE.

DON’T YOU VOTE FOR SAME SEX MARRIAGE!

YOUR ELECTORATE WILL REMEMBER IN 2014!

xxxxxxx yyyyyyyyy

PS DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT ADOPTION!

PPS YOUR MUM WASN’T A LESBIAN.

I’ve excluded the sender’s name because that’s not the point. Bob McCoskrie and Colin Craig would probably say they don’t encourage this kind of approach, but in fact this is precisely what they constantly dog whistle for.

I’ve seen it all before. As part of the campaign for the extension of anti-discrimination law to cover “sexual orientation” and other grounds, I waded through all of the generally poisonous submissions made against Homosexual Law Reform. I commissioned a discourse analysis of the submissions (McCreanor, T.:Why strengthen the city wall when the enemy has poisoned the well?”), which drew some conclusions about how the language used to talk about homosexuality both reflects and shapes underlying beliefs. Both anti-gay bullying and discrimination, and opposition to progressive recognition of the human rights of gay people reflect prejudice that is based in ignorance and fear.

Let’s be clear: while there are no doubt exceptions, most of the opposition to marriage equality is based on a belief that gay and lesbian people are inferior in some way to heterosexual people.

There’s a positive too. I was heavily involved in the campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, and I think I can sayI was a leader of the human rights campaign. It is unquestionable that the proportion of New Zealanders still clinging to homophobic prejudice, as appealed to by Messrs McCroskrie and Craig, is becoming smaller and smaller. Young New Zealanders, in particular, are much more likely to see those with a different sexual orientation or gender identity simply as their equals, with the same human rights as they have.

My partner and I got together in August 1984. That’s 28 years. Probably longer than many of the MPs who will end up voting against Louisa’s Bill. Our lives together are not really any different to those of many heterosexual couples. We cook and eat together, we watch TV, we do the gardening, we have stupid arguments, we visit our families and friends, we go cycling together, we pay the mortgage, we go to the supermarket, we have had a houseful of teenagers, we went to their parent-teacher interviews, we go to the gym. We love each other.

We don’t know if we will marry. But if we do, we hope you will celebrate with us, and recognise that lighting our candle does not extinguish yours – it just increases the light.

29 thoughts on “Me and Marriage Equality

  1. One thing I am tiring of is the ugliness of this debate.

    As a conservative I am opposed to changing marriage, but I am not opposed to gay people having equal rights, the state has a mandate to treat all citizens equally. My perspective is simply that marriage is a heterosexual tradition and has value to society remaining so.

    But I will say this, Kevin and his partner seem to have a better relationship than many heterosexual couples I know, perhaps even a model relationship, and for me, this is where the confusion comes in.

    How do any of us really know what the right thing to do in this situation is? How do we know that what we want is the best outcome and not just what we personally want? I can accept that my opinions may still be influenced by my past attendance of a pentecostal church, but then I find myself appalled by some of the bigotry I see coming from conservative Christians and I am not so sure if I am really influenced by it any longer.

    My feeling is that we would be loosing something if we redefine marriage, and I just can’t shake it.

    I think this is because marriage was just so important for my wife and I to escape family abuse and organised religion,(deeply pentecostal pastors for in laws/parents creates some incredibly difficult family dynamics),marriage literally enabled my wife and I to have a second shot at determining our own (not our parents)life values. It has enabled us to raise 4 happy healthy kids and begin the family that neither my wife or I really had as children.

    I turned 35 today and I feel so grateful that I have my wife (of 13 years) and my 4 children to spend my life with, every year this feeling seems to grow. I feel like I avoided a terrible alternate possibility for adult life, I was absolutely lost as a young man before I met my wife. We escaped a lot of crap together, though it wasn’t always easy.

    I know others see marriage differently, and I know there are degrees of commitment and many don’t hold marriage ideas quite so highly, but for me, it is absolutely undeniably the most positive thing I have ever done.

    This is why I feel so strongly about it, I’m really not a bigot and I hate the way this debate has been framed and the degree of shear nastiness on both sides.

    If we can’t stand upon our own life experiences and the values we developed from them what can we stand on?

  2. Shunda Notning to do with topic but…

    losing loosing

    I don’t usually but… this just leaps from the page and attacks my brain

    :-)

  3. Shunda, that is an interesting story you tell about how marriage helped you escape “family abuse and organised religion”, but don’t you think the institution of marriage might have played an even MORE important role in this had you and your partner been gay?

    One would have to take your word that you are not a bigot, but you do seem to really struggle to extend empathy to gay people who simply want the same opportunity that you have had.

  4. It’s an interesting concept, this idea that here are cultural traditions and things we belong to and that belong to us.

    Things that belong to anyone who happens to be a human being, as soon as they choose to pair with a partner and build a family. As those “creatures” of other procreative species also do. For de facto couples have this without any marriage or meeting any requirements or precepts of men required for this. Others have their civil marriages without any association with the particular types of ceremony or separate institutions that are available to many sub group cultures within humanity. While there is the call to offer some a sub group form of marriage called civil union, no one calls the marriages of those of sub cultures of humanity anything but a marriage.

    This is justified on the grounds of natural partner ability to procreate life in their our image, but this would require a fertility test or age limitation for hetero couples that is not applied. Or would these people be restricted to civil unions too? But of course infertile couples can like drought regions be irrigated to have children, and even old people can foster/adopt children.

    For millenia, homosexual men have fathered children and lesbian women become mothers while on the marriage bed. All while unable to have their own preferred relationships formalised. Perhaps their descendants should at least allow exercise of free will to those homosexuals and lesbians of this generation as to how they partner and have their children in future.

    We are not bound by tradition, we can make the world anew in our image (and humanity does include people not heterosexual). We are not bound to continue to deny others equality or freedom, nor to continue to despoil the land by overstocking or overcropping (not once we know better and/or rotate crops etc), nor to bound to continue with the ways that lead to war if we want peace, nor bound to accept people dying of disease if we can provide means to prevent this.

    To quote a favourite passage of the bible (cited by Catholics in this very debate), should a widow be without children or left to become a harlot … or should she have a partner to raise up children with? I say let the union be. Those who begrudge this are more like the one said to be doing wrong in not providing for the woman without a husband.

  5. One would have to take your word that you are not a bigot, but you do seem to really struggle to extend empathy to gay people who simply want the same opportunity that you have had.

    I have empathy for people bullied and unfairly treated, I was also on the receiving end of homophobia as a teenager and have some idea of what it is like.
    Bullies don’t discriminate between who is actually gay and who they think is gay. In my case, several other students spread an untrue rumor that I had been sodomized by a gay teacher, which resulted in being called ‘faggot’ for a very long time. The truth was, I didn’t even know the teacher in question. This teacher later killed himself after being investigated for inappropriate conduct with other students, I still have people asking if the rumors about me are true, one person even mocking me 18 years later.

    Gay people don’t have a monopoly on homophobic abuse, I think my ability to empathise with bullied homosexuals is pretty finely tuned.

  6. Shunda, let me ask you a hypothetical question

    If one of your children turned out to be gay or lesbian (or any of the queer umbrella really – transgendered, intersex), and were in love with a person in a relationship that was loving, filled with companionship, a desire to live as a unit, share heartaches and times of joy, would you still oppose them getting married?

    I understand the arguments that those opposed to marriage equality have put forward, but I think in reality, people have just to ask themselves:

    “If someone I loved wanted to be with the person that they love for the rest of their lives, and share the trials and triumphs that marriage invariably brings, is it right for me to say that their relationship is not worthy of the same protection and recognition as mine?”

  7. Xavier, the thing about hypothetical situations is that they usually remain hypothetical situations!.

    I have no way of knowing how I would deal with a ‘queer’ child until I have to cross that path. I certainly would not stop loving them and would do everything I could to try and understand the situation.

    I couldn’t place myself in a hypothetical gay relationship either because I am not gay, all I have is the perspective I have gained from my life to date.

    One of the things I have become very aware of is the confusion that many young heterosexuals go through regarding long term commitment and child rearing. I would describe the current situation as a societal crisis, there are a lot of lost, damaged heterosexual youth/young adults about.

    In my opinion, retaining marriage as an exclusive heterosexual institution could be very valuable as a stabilising influence in society, which would help gay youth as well for obvious reasons.

  8. I have yet to hear an argument that actually explains how marriage equality threatens anyone’s marriage.

    Surely marriage is, like mine, built around unconditional love, commitment and respect. If the granting of the same legal status to others undermines this, then we May as well not have got married. If it is so tenuous there really is no point.

    All the religious arguments are derailing. My wife and I are atheists. To offer a biblical argument about marriage means you are denying mine.

    Marriage Equality is about equal legal status, and marriage (in this country) is a legal institution. If you choose to have it recognised by your church as well, that’s a separate matter.

    My marriage is strong. It is not in the least harmed by others enjoying the same rights. Quite the opposite. More loving couples able to marry only enhances my own marriage.

  9. Good grief, I had no idea the bill was so consistently attacked in this redneck kind of way.

    Hope the bill passes. I’m not gay, but I just don’t get all the opposition at all. Perhaps that’s because I don’t start with the premise that gay = inferior.

  10. Time changes everything and in time this law will pass and those who oppose it will be seen in history as laughable. I for one have no issue wth Gay people getting married as it does not impact on my life in any way. Who really cares? Those who oppose it seem to be two types of person: a Christian relic who basis their opinion from some book which anyone could have written, or those who just don’t want to look outside their own little box. Both give no credible arguement to me at all.

  11. Shandra and others over my Gay life span 1958 to present I have witnessed the persecution and prosecution of Gay and trans people, I have witnessed violence dished out by the community which was legal at the time imprisonment, shock therapy and the mental degradation our community suffers at the hands of the Redneck right wing community, even to this day, in the intervening years we have had Homosexuality legalized in many countries the sky didn’t fall in nor did the moral fiber of our communities get any worse, we had civil unions same deal no sky falling in no vengeful god blasting all us queers to kingdom come, Gay marriage will come as will Gay adoption and yet again the sky will not fall.
    What will happen though with this kind of equality is our youth will gradually be more confident, more stable, more productive, than we were able to be from my generation .
    Jacquie Grant MNZM

  12. I’m not gay, but I just don’t get all the opposition at all. Perhaps that’s because I don’t start with the premise that gay = inferior.

    Or perhaps you aren’t fully considering the issues involved or why the state was interested in marriage in the first place.
    You don’t have to see gay people as inferior to oppose redefining marriage. I think you are confusing “inferior” with ‘different’.

    Tell me, why do you think there is a marriage act?

  13. I have yet to hear an argument that actually explains how marriage equality threatens anyone’s marriage.

    Yet few argue that it won’t change the institution, Kevin Hague and Jackie Grant both acknowledge that it will change the perception of the institution so much as to change society for some people, so lets discuss how that change could affect other aspects for heterosexual couples.

    Surely marriage is, like mine, built around unconditional love, commitment and respect. If the granting of the same legal status to others undermines this, then we May as well not have got married. If it is so tenuous there really is no point.

    Tell me this, was the government interested in marriage because it makes people super duper happy, or were they interested in the institution because it reflected values that were important to social well being and stability?

    All the religious arguments are derailing. My wife and I are atheists. To offer a biblical argument about marriage means you are denying mine.

    Totally agree, the religious argument for marriage should exist only within the 4 walls of the church or as a submission to government of the church’s behalf. There are plenty of non religious reasons that need proper consideration that aren’t being considered.

    Marriage Equality is about equal legal status,

    No, it is not.

    Civil unions are about equal legal status, that means civil unions provide equal legal status under NZ law

  14. I have witnessed violence dished out by the community which was legal at the time imprisonment, shock therapy and the mental degradation our community suffers at the hands of the Redneck right wing community, even to this day,

    Yet you have been democratically elected to both the Grey district and Westland district councils, these are two areas that some would consider to be among the most “red neck” regions in NZ. Times have changed a great deal.

    I agree with much of what you say Jackie, but I just think there are other considerations with this issue that aren’t being properly discussed.

    But I will say this, I would side with you before I side with an ignorant red neck bully any day of the week.

    I think you have done some wonderful things for West Coast kids and you certainly deserve credit for these achievements.

  15. There is the argument that equality before the law was provided by civil unions – this despite civil unions did not actually convey equality for partners with those married in a range of legislation. And despite the fact that we specified there be no discrimination against homosexuals over 10 years before there was any civil union legislation.

    Civil unions was always a compromise to achieve some sembalance of taking the earlier human rights legislation on its word. It is indeed an irony that many who opposed it then now cite it as the reason there is no human rights necessity to allow same sex couples to marry now.

    As to the argument made that marriage is a traditional institution for heterosexuals alone, the term the PM uses is fast follower. Many nations now have marriage arrangments that include same sex couples. It would seem silly if we allowed visiting married couples the legal status we denied our own citizens.

  16. Sure shunda, we should listen to the voices of those who have shown how allowing same sex couples to commit to a partnership with each other, as others do, will have any adverse impact on them, their relationships anf families and the society they live in.

    So far there is nothing to hear. It’s our institution is silent on this point. The hardly articulated idea that, in some mystical way, that this undermines the idealism of heterosexual commitment to something called marriage is suggestive of a sacred purity somehow being violated – this is either the remannt echo of a religious attitude or belief that a society or an institution can be contaminated by the unclean amongst it – this has xenophobic overtones.

    I an fairly sure you don’t want to accept this is the case, so feel free to articulate in your own words.

    hange the institution, Kevin Hague and Jackie Grant both acknowledge that it will change the perception of the institution so much as to change society for some people, so lets discuss how that change could affect other aspects for heterosexual couples.

  17. I’m sorry Shundra but I really can’t understand you,
    You acknowledge the importance of marriage, citing how it enabled you & your wife to escape your families/religious backgrounds & build a new life together, implying that you wouldn’t’ve been able to achieve these things with a mere civil union, it was being married itself that was so important & allowed you to build such a strong relationship, so you acknowledge that there is a (perceptual & conceptual) difference between Marriage & civil union. And yet you use the fact that marriage is so important and this difference so vital, as a reason to justify denying it to homosexual couples. How does that follow? Unless you are saying that the love & relationships of Gay couples somehow isn’t as real & as important as that of you & your wife…? That they don’t deserve the same opportunity that you & your wife had. That allowing them to marry will make marriage of less values & importance.

    You are afraid that allowing Gay couples to marry will redefine marriage somehow. Well I know that this is an old point, but so did allowing interracial couples to marry. It expanded the concept to include others, it did not devalue it, make it somehow smaller and of less import. It is precisely because we recognise just how important Marriage is that we want Gay couples to be allowed to marry.
    Or perhaps you are saying that the institution/tradition of marriage in New Zealand is somehow weaker than it is in other countries. Countries that have adapted the institution over time to allow the marriage of interracial & more recently homosexual couples? That it somehow cannot survive the social changes of time here in the way that it has in other countries.
    But the evidence is against you. marriage has survived the changes of centuries, millenia actually, it is still here, and still strong enough to have the meaning that it does for you & your wife. Do you truely think that it is so weak that it will shatter if extended to include others? That it simply doesn’t have the resilience to expand and grow? if that is the case then it is not as important as you & I both believe that it is in which case it wouldn’t warrant such ardent ‘protection’ and wouldn’t matter who it was extended to anyway.

    Either marriage is important & should be available to all.
    Or it isn’t important & there is no grounds for denying it to any.
    Either view leads to the same conclusion.

  18. There are several points to consider with this issue.

    There are the personal ‘wants’ issues of love and happiness that seems to be the primary objective of most people on this debate.

    Then there are the more dispassionate issues on how the institution of marriage benefits/influences society.

    On the first point, I agree, gay people should not be discriminated against by the state for religious or any other reason, the state has no mandate to uphold the particular beliefs of any religion.

    On the second point things become more cloudy.

    Marriage has value not only for the individuals involved, but for society as a whole. This value is related to it being a potential stabilizing influence on human relationships and communities.

    This is where I think we have to look at the situation in a more dispassionate way.
    We have to define the differences between gay/straight, the respective roles these sexual orientations play, and we have to look at our biology and reproductive habits and how these affect the society we all share in.

    I argue that this is where the true interest in marriage is for the state.

    Marriage ideals happen to coincide with the biological ideal for raising happy healthy human children and therefore happy healthy new citizens.
    Most people that choose to marry end up having genetic offspring due to the fact that the situation is ideal for human procreation (ie, we are compelled by our biology).

    When problems face society like broken homes, child poverty, and other issues caused by unstable relationships, I think strengthening heterosexual relationships and encouraging commitment makes a lot of sense.

    The reason I think marriage should remain an exclusive heterosexual institution is because I think it is necessary to help uphold the biological ideal for raising children and stable families, and I argue that this is the only interest the state actually has in the institution. Personal happiness in itself is not enough to compel the state, but legal equality (civil unions) is important for matters of individual rights.

    Because heterosexual couples have the exclusive ability to reproduce genetic offspring, an exclusive relationship tradition is not out of order to be officially recognised by the state.
    Gay people are not straight people, there are obvious limits that biology has placed upon this part of humanity.

    So in summary, for personal happiness, there should be equality based on legal rights and relationship recognition by the state.

    For the tradition of marriage (that so far has always been exclusively heterosexual), there should be a retention of the staus quo for the value it adds to society being consistent with the biological ideal for producing children, which by definition, is always going to be a heterosexual majority.

    I see no issue in recognising the special role that heterosexual couples play in society, yes marriage is currently exclusive, but not because of a human rights disparity, it is exclusive because of human biology

    Being different is absolutely ok, pretending you’re not, however, isn’t in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with accepting there are things we just can’t be or do.

  19. Shunda You said about me I will answer at the bottom.: Yet you have been democratically elected to both the Grey district and Westland district councils, these are two areas that some would consider to be among the most “red neck” regions in NZ. Times have changed a great deal.

    I agree with much of what you say Jackie, but I just think there are other considerations with this issue that aren’t being properly discussed.

    But I will say this, I would side with you before I side with an ignorant red neck bully any day of the week.

    I think you have done some wonderful things for West Coast kids and you certainly deserve credit for these achievements.

    No I was not elected to The Westland District Council as you claim and gave up after three attempts even though I WAS the best candidate unfortunately and as I was told many times by locals I would never get there because of my inferior status. Yes I was elected to the Grey District council some years ago after once again several tries and only because the Mayor at the time and his council tried to block me at a BI election, in that case the unfairness of a situation over rode the sexuality issue, which shows me overall coasters do have a sense of fairness just like the rest of the country. Just because I have done some work with kids does not in my opinion make me any different a person if I hadn’t done that work, my sexuality had nothing to do with it actually it has very little to do with anything I do in my life it is just what I am something I can’t change, I am also left handed.

  20. The above email/letter sent to Kevin Hague is symptomatic of redneck opposition to social justice; written by the uneducated on issues they have little understanding about. Yet, the same letter-writter priobably screams blue-murdere if his/her rights are in any way threatened.

    They know enough to write a nasty, virulent letter – but not enough to know what they’re talking about.

    @ Shunda; “In my opinion, retaining marriage as an exclusive heterosexual institution could be very valuable as a stabilising influence in society, which would help gay youth as well for obvious reasons.”

    Really? In what way? Please explain the rationale of that statement because I’m really curious what you mean.

  21. @ Shunda; “In my opinion, retaining marriage as an exclusive heterosexual institution could be very valuable as a stabilising influence in society, which would help gay youth as well for obvious reasons.”

    Really? In what way? Please explain the rationale of that statement because I’m really curious what you mean.

    Gay youth are born to straight parents! gay youth are almost always raised in straight families.

    I am surprised you didn’t get that from what I said.

    We need to look at that reality and understand that heterosexual couples have an ‘expanded’ role to play in society, the state clearly has an interest in assisting this to happen, marriage ideals also represent the biological ideal for raising happy healthy children (gay and straight), so, what is wrong with recognising this institution as exclusively heterosexual at a state level? The State recognises the Plunket society, is that a violation of human rights?

  22. Jackie, I am sorry, I didn’t realise that that was the case.
    From my perspective it appeared that you were reasonably respected as a Grey district councilor, and you were certainly more valuable than some of the other elected muppets at the time.

    You should move back to Grey and have another go :)

  23. It’s interesting that some want the state to recognise marriage as an exclusively (serial monogomy) heterosexual institution and others do not want the state to re-define marriage.

    If marriage was to be recognised as an unchanging heterosexual institution, and others restricted to separate but equal civil union, why not separate but equal polygamy for Moslems, other migrants (some Mormons) and polygamy and polyandry for curious willing to try anything locals? This is more likely than saying that allowing an extension of marriage to homosexuals and lesbians (good as you – gays) would lead to polygamy (female multiple husband form polyandry).

    Now what is polygamy/polyandry when the two partners are male and female? Polygamandry?

  24. “The above email/letter sent to Kevin Hague is symptomatic of redneck opposition to social justice; written by the uneducated on issues they have little understanding about. ” – Frank, lol

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