Conscience voting on LGBT issues

GayNZ has been interviewing politicians from each political party, and this week it was the turn of the Green Party’s Kevin Hague, who discussed support for gay marriage and gay adoption, as well as an end to the Gay Panic Defence in criminal law.

Hague made an interesting point about conscience votes and the fact that other parties often use them to give themselves some leeway from standing up for LGBT rights:

Essentially on every issue that has come into the House since we’ve been in Parliament, the Green Party has voted the ‘right’ way… voted in favour of lesbian and gay interests, as a matter of party policy, not through a conscience vote, as other parties have done…

Yeah, why are they ‘moral’ votes, would be my question. And that’s the Green Party’s question too. When it comes to things like Civil Unions, for example, why should that be a moral issue or a different kind of issue from any other question that Parliament decides. And the Green Party voted for Civil Unions as a matter of policy.

I’ve always thought the strange thing about conscience votes is the implication that politicians are not voting with their conscience on other issues.  Voters vote for parties that represent their consciences. So they (the voters) could no doubt be annoyed to find that elements of their chosen party are skiving off to vote for something opposite to what those voters thought they had voted for.

46 Comments Posted

  1. Strings Says:
    November 5th, 2008 at 10:59 am

    > If the statement “the Green Party does not make its internal decisions by imposing the will of the majority on the minority” is true, this implies a form of decision by consensus. If it doesn’t, I would be VERY interested to hear how decisions are made,

    we try for consensus, and we usually achieve it. But we do have an out clause allowing for a vote, in which a 75% majority is required for any change to the status quo. You might think this rule would lead to a strong inertia against change, but it doesn’t seem to have had that effect in practice.

    I’d be interested to know if this system mitilates against the formation of factions, because we don’t seem to have strong factions, and I can see that our decision-making would tend to grind to a halt if we did.

  2. Valis

    If the statement “the Green Party does not make its internal decisions by imposing the will of the majority on the minority” is true, this implies a form of decision by consensus. If it doesn’t, I would be VERY interested to hear how decisions are made, as I am currently working on decision making approaches in a corporate environment and the insight would be most useful.

  3. “So what you’re saying is that democracy (i.e. the will of the majority in a one-member one-vote system,) does not apply in the Green Party, and that all proposals are dumbed down to the point where there is no one in the entire party membership list that cannot live with the decision that has been made.”

    No, that’s just wild speculation on your part.

  4. Frog
    “Green Party does not make its internal decisions by imposing the will of the majority on the minority”

    So what you’re saying is that democracy (i.e. the will of the majority in a one-member one-vote system,) does not apply in the Green Party, and that all proposals are dumbed down to the point where there is no one in the entire party membership list that cannot live with the decision that has been made.

    If this is truly the situation, then I congratulate you on achieving true communism, you may be the first adult group outside Israel’s kibbutzim to do so. This doesn’t mean I agree with what you’ve done, I don’t, but it is a fantastic achievement.

    I would like to know though, why (if this is what you have achieved) you have leaders? I can understand the concept of first speaker, and acknowledge that there is a need for a last speaker and many administrative roles too, but in a true consensus organisation there is no need for leadership, as all decisions must be taken via that consensus.

  5. I like your parties policy on GLBT. I’ve been an active member of gay/lesbian community & I have established (as organiser) a Lesbian/Gay support/social group for Young Lesbian Women, in my Community. This group starts in 2009, and i already have 20 registered members.

    The Act Party MP’s all work together for common vision, and they support that – as a ‘whole party’. As a MP you should have ‘passion’ for Policy of your Party, as thats what you communicate to your electorate. Why have policy that supports GBLT Community, when that Policy, is not outworked in practical ways in the community? For example your GBLT Policy states support into research within GBLT Community. The question one would then ask, is what practical steps, have you taken in this resarch? Great (we read in your gaynz.com) article you support gay adoption & panic defence….but i note (thats all your focus is), as thats all you mention. That puzzles me, for a political party, that has a policy for GBLT. You state that you want better resourcing for Rainbow Youth (great, i viewed the Financial Statement for 2008) Rainbow Youth, and they had lots of money for resourcing however. in comparison, other districts (outside of Auckland) are not affiliated/or serviced with adequate Education/Community Institutions (such as Rainbow Youth). If you cared for needs of GLBT people (and your policy specifies this), then what are the support mechanisms you are implementing? if any. Otherwise you don’t have clear vision to support GLBT and that undecidedness…..say one thing, but do another….or simply don’t do it, at all.

    On the other hand, we have the Act Party. In gaynz.com Rodney states that he has (passion) interest in meeting with Transgender people, and providing them with support….it fasinates him. I didn’t feel that same passion in your Speech. Instead i felt a common Labour Agenda,…..that ‘outwardly’ to the public establishes a ‘policy’ to create extra votes….but, is not very pro-active – where more could be done. If it was more proactive – then would we see Green MP’s out talking to GLBT people, down k Road? Hmm, not if you state that GLBT Green Policy does not require Party Group Consensus on all policy points.

    I refered to London Greens, as example of how they implement their policy & put it into action, within Gay Community. They just don’t have a Policy stating, i.e (we will research in improving GLBT community) but then they don’t outwardly do so. I note – the Europe Greens have called for Europe wide survey on best practicing of policiing GLBT communities. Why is NZ Greens not as proactive? Or maybe majority of Greens don’t like gays/lesbians, and don’t agree on majority of points in Green Policy.

    You mention in gaynz that gay/lesbians may well be attuned to other issues of injustice….and the green party is the logical place for those to find expression’. I DON”T UNDERSTAND THAT. You take a ‘victim-like’ stance towards gays/lesbians, that freedom of expression is only found in Green Party. But what do you offer, any different than any other party? Gay/Lesbians who take personal responsibility for their lives, don’t go around with ‘victim mentality’ the instead focus on ‘change’….this is not found in nanny state.

    I support the Act Party because they are the best Party. But….we don’t need a Nanny State – to treat minorities (like victims) gays/lesbians, as if they’re prone to feeling injustice in society. Instead we encourage freedom of individual, with personal responsibility.

    I care about the needs of gay/lesbian teenagers, i’ve established a group in my community to help gay/lesbians. Why? Because thats what counts….is having a desire/or fasination, into meeting with those in gay/lesbian community and providing support. You’d see an attitude of support from Act…..Rodneys a great person, and excellent political leader. He’s not affraid to do the hard work. Green Party seems like their not prepared to do the hard work……why create policy, but be void of action? Why not support the people in your electoriate through building sustainable relationships and researching concerns? much better than providing Labour Agenda.

  6. Shawn, Rodney is welcome to come onto frogblog and comment any time he likes.

    Cherie, I have read your latest post above 3 times, and still do not understand it.

    Here is the Green policy on GLBT issues. It has a consensus of membership support. That does not mean that every Green member necessarily agrees with every point, but that all are agreed that it can be Green policy.

  7. Toad:

    Our database of members is made up of mostly ex-Labourites, from the 80s onwards. And others who call themselves “socialists”, “environmentalists”, and so on. Yes, ex-Greenies reside here too.

    Frog:

    I e-mail the links for blog threads where I post to my database of undecided friends, and others in our network.

    They follow the debates on various topical issues, then make up their own minds whether or not to vote ACT.

    This, too, is campaigning.

    It appears the Greens are incapable of thinking laterally. 😛

    (And if I indeed weren’t campaigning, shouldn’t you be smirking with glee? ;))

  8. Apologies Shawn and pingpong – I’d missed that discussion. And yup, please feel free to hang around here and ‘campaign’ as long as you like. Tell Rodney he’s welcome to join us here too.

  9. Yep, here it is:

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2008/11/03/opening-up-cabinet-minutes-to-the-public/#comment-63526

    Frog, I really am flattered by your concern about our campaign.

    As a Media Coordinator in the ACT Campaign Office, I juggle campaigning activities (after-hours) with my media duties (normal working hours).

    Yes, I work 15-hour days. And this includes weekends. I love this party and what it stands for, and I will bleed if I have to to prevent another 3 years of Red-Green totalitarianism.

    “Armchair campaigning” in this case includes monitoring the blogs and getting into online debates on topical issues, amongst other things.

    Thus far, I have already converted some potential Green and Labour voters to vote ACT. In fact, a number of them are now on my campaign team, out there delivering leaflets and converting others.

    You underestimate the power of words, frog.

    Yes, I campaign through electronic media too. And I thought the Greens are techno-savvy. Campaigning is more than mere door-knocking; it transcends the traditional methods. E-campaigning is what got Obama his message out there, and it’s the way of the future.

    I’m surprised I have to spell it out like that. 😛

    By the way, Rodney is here with me in the ACT Campaign Office – perhaps you would like to ask him yourself? 😉

    I said this to Valis, and I’ll say it to you too:

    “And with all due respect, what I do is none of your business anyway.

    “Unless you’re genuinely concerned about our campaign, which somehow I suspect ain’t the case.

    “Typical Greens; always doing the Nanny State’s bidding. Take your nose out of other people’s affairs, please.”

  10. I’m confused…..i thought the greens all supported GLBT rights? If their advertising that their party supports GLBT rights, but former party members have opposed it, then isn’t that misleading? And, you know how much a party really is supporting GLBT issues, if you look at overseas Party Support. The Greens in Europe proactively support GLBT rights, in which NZ Greens, have not even considered. Which as a part-european (tells me) all members of NZ Greens do not (as a collective)support GLBT….theres a disparentcy. But they need the GLBT for party votes. Clearly evident when Greens were again on KRoad Yesterday, lobbying votes from Gay Community.

    And how can be separate issues of morality, into different boxes? We can’t. Why does one rule (one policy) apply to one piece of possible legislation, and not to the next? That shows a degree of compromising to social/public opinion, and not being clear on actual policies a party supports.

    So, how can a Party Lead with direction, if their double-minded in their views? Where there’s lack of Unity on issues of morality, where different standards of ‘interpretation’ of possible legislation, apply – based on personal opinion/not policy. If it infact was POLICY, then no double-mindedness exists.

    Thats why i love the Act Party & Rodney (as leader). There’s no double-mindedness, there’s no compromise. We challenge the very notion that avoids personal responsibility in society. We believe in no-compromise attitude, to which has turned our Country from being economically prosperious, to state dependent. We’ve sold ourselves short, because we can’t face the state of affairs in our country – from a logically view. With Act, we can. There’s no double-minded division.

  11. Frog, Shawn said in another thread his roll in the campaign was to do “armchair” campaigning, which I presume is writing long posts on frogblog. I would leave him to it, it is proving some very instructive insights.

  12. Shawn, here’s a quick question – you’ll notice all our Green candidates aren’t on this forum at the moment because they are busy campaigning – shouldn’t you be off campaigning too? it is after all 4 days until an election in which you are a candidate. In the last two days I have written about 20 posts and you have made 35 comments (some quite long). Does Rodney know you are spending all this time on the computer?

  13. We’ve got a few in the Greens who used to be in ACT Shawn. And I’m not sure who you count among the “more than half of us” ex-Lefties in ACT.

    Certainly those like Sir Roger who were in Labour in the 1970s and 1980s don’t count – they were on the far right even then.

  14. Toad:

    You said: “[H]aving been a Green Party member Shawn, you know as well as I do that the Green Party does not make its internal decisions by imposing the will of the majority on the minority. I would have thought libertarians like you would support that.”

    Exactly, Toad. And that is why on the issues of same-sex marriage, voluntary euthanasia, prostitution and abortion, ACT’s position is a conscience vote on ALL these issues. None warrant an official party position.

    Note that we treat all these issues consistently, i.e. ALL these are issues of morality/ethics and therefore get the same treatment of no official party position.

    That (the quote from 2006) was uttered by a Shawn Tan who was still blinded by delusional, utopian ideology and who failed to see the light. I am not ashamed to admit how ignorant I once was. Recognition of error is the first step; it demonstrates remorse and personal responsibility. Next, you take steps to investigate and analyse the facts, before jumping to emotive conclusions – as the Left do.

    It took me 7 years to realise the error of my ways. This shows you how much damage leftist indoctrination can do to you, and how long it takes to break free from it – if you actually manage it. 😉

    In ACT, you will find that more than half of us are ex-lefties.

    More people move from the Left to the Right, not vice versa. That’s because enlightenment does not work in reverse.

    Humanity will be doomed if it did.

  15. So
    I made what I thought was a serious contribution to the debate, that postulated only allowing couples to form for the purpose of raising children, and their having to stay together to those childrens’ attainment of their majority, and allowing any other form of ‘coupling’ (i.e. becoming a couple) to take place on an ‘on-demand’ basis as no legal or statutory support would appear to be necessary.
    I was ignored, in favour of a few people preferring to harp on about entrenched positions and ‘party policy’. Yet this is a blog that espouses the concept of debate of issues.
    What did I do wrong? Was I too cohesive, too coherent, too radical? I look forward to your contribution.

  16. turnip28 said: …on they other hand they would also oppose voluntary euthanasia.

    The Greens do not oppose voluntary euthanasia Turnip. When a Bill on this was introduced into Parliament a few years back the Green vote was split, with the majority actually supporting.

  17. Shawn Tan said: Unless you’re telling me there is one set of morality for same-sex marriage, another for abortion and yet another for voluntary euthanasia?

    I’m not saying that at all Shawn. What I am saying is that there is a shared perception of morality within the Greens on the issue of same-sex marriage. That same shared perception of morality does not exist on voluntary euthanasia or abortion. Different people within the Greens have different understandings of what is the “moral” or “ethic” position on those issues.

    From conversations I’ve had with Greens, I suspect the pro-choice position on both abortion and voluntary euthanasia is the dominant one. But having been a Green Party member Shawn, you know as well as I do that the Green Party does not make its internal decisions by imposing the will of the majority on the minority. I would have thought libertarians like you would support that.

    BTW, are you the same Shawn Tan who posted this on frogblog in 2006:

    RedGreen Says:
    February 5th, 2006 at 12:39 am

    Gosh Mr Seymour,

    You seem a little flustered that Russel has actually responded to – and in fact successfully rebutted – AF/Trev’s questions.

    The only vitriol and ad hominem attacks come from the ACT camp.

    Build a bridge and get over yourself. Otherwise get some multinational corporation to build it for you. 😉

    – Shawn Tan

    or was that an imposter?

  18. The green party’s moral abiguity is exposed fairly easily in that they would oppose a military draft but on they other hand they would also oppose voluntary euthanasia.

    Both of those issues deal with the ownership of ones life.

    The state can’t draft you and send you to die in a war because the state doesn’t own your life, the state also can’t stop you from ending your life because once again the state doesn’t own your life.

    Note those 2 issues are very important to a truly liberal democractic society, which regards at its core that a persons life is owned by the individual and not the state.

    Off Topic:

    Over on the C4L(Ron Paul) website they have a wonderful post about what would you do if you became president. My personal favourtie post was

    “I would demolish the Lincon memorial and direct people over to the Jefferson instead.”

    I so wish I lived in Jefferson’s America and not hamiltons.

  19. Toad:

    You skirt the point again.

    Kevin implied that the Greens are consistent on all issues that constitute moral/ethical matters.

    Unless you’re telling me there is one set of morality for same-sex marriage, another for abortion and yet another for voluntary euthanasia?

    If so, that makes the moral fabric of the Greens whimsical, flimsy and arbitrary.

  20. “Seems you gave up debating the issue’s weeks ago.”

    You haven’t been paying attention then. But it is true I spend an inordinate amount of time pointing out your lies. Its a dirty job, but… If you really care about the issues, just stop and we’d have more time for them.

  21. What makes them different Shawn is the very pragmatic issue that there is a consensus among Green membership in support of a same-sex marriage policy. There is not a consensus on abortion or voluntary euthanasia.

    Simple as that.

  22. Toad:

    Then why does Kevin make sweeping statements such as:

    “Essentially on every issue that has come into the House since we’ve been in Parliament, the Green Party has voted the ‘right’ way […] not through a conscience vote, as other parties have done…”

    And he adds:

    “Yeah, why are they ‘moral’ votes, would be my question. […] When it comes to things like Civil Unions, for example, why should that be a moral issue or a different kind of issue from any other question that Parliament decides.”

    Kevin implies that there should not be any distinction between moral issues.

    So what exactly makes same-sex marriage “a very different issue” from abortion and voluntary euthanasia? All these issues involve rights, ethics, conscience and morals. I don’t see any reason for this inconsistency.

  23. Perhaps the causation of marriage would be a better place to start working this topic through!
    IN many civilisations there was no prohibition on ‘dating’ the same sex, and in many there was a preference for them to live together in dormitory like environments once they reached ‘maturity’. However, when it came to the point of their wanting to have children (which historically would mean with a member of the opposite sex) they were required to enter into a binding arrangement to raise those children in a family unit. As historically life expectancy was more in the 4 decades than the 8-10 we see on today’s horizon, these arrangements were, to all purposes, for life. IN many historic settings, there was a disproportionate ration of men to women (1:3 was not unusual,) based on the biological ability to reproduce, so it would not have been unusual for families to consist of bigamous groups. (The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris, explains much of this history.)

    AS communities expanded, formal ‘religions’ emerged and started to dictate ‘morals’ to their communities, more for purposes of control than religious ecstasy. As communities grew further, governance politics emerged, and politicians embedded the family unit in many portions of law so as to have further levels of community control.

    To solve the Gay and Lesbian situation is simple. Eliminate all reference to “partner, spouse, husband, wife, etc., from the statutes, and return the commitment of two people to be solely a legal arrangement between two people required for them to be allowed the privilege of raising and nurturing of children to maturity. (Currently determined by law as being age 18.) Then there is equality and choice for all, protection for children (naturally born or adopted), and people who have no intention of procreating or adopting children can make whatever living arrangements they desire based on good old contract and law and Last Will and Testament conventions.

  24. I have no problems with same sex civil unions, not sure about marriage but I do draw the line at gay adoption.

  25. Shawn Tan said: Because the last time there was a vote on this in Parliament, Sue Kedgley voted against it, in defiance of the Green caucus.

    Shawn, you are correct that Sue Kedgley voted against it, but not correct that this was “in definance of the Green caucus”. As the Greens have no policy position on this issue, no Green MP was bound to vote either way.

    There will always be issues such as this where there is no consensus within the Green Party, and there is no “public embarassment” in our admitting this. Abortion and voluntary euthanasia are among these.

    Same sex marriage is a very different issue upon which there is a consensus of support within the party, and therefore a policy.

  26. All good and well, Kevin – except the Greens’ position on abortion is a “conscience vote” because it’s an ethical/moral position.

    (Or so said Green candidate Lisa Er at the Mt Roskill candidates’ forum on Sunday.)

    And when it comes to voluntary euthanasia, the Greens’ position is one of a conscience vote too. Why? Because the last time there was a vote on this in Parliament, Sue Kedgley voted against it, in defiance of the Green caucus. And this posed a few problems.

    Therefore, the picture becomes quite clear:

    Where there is consensus on an issue, you dress it up as “party policy”.

    And where there is clear internal disagreement on the issue, it becomes a matter of “conscience” to avoid the public embarassment of a portrayal of lack of consensus on the matter.

    Therefore, stop trying to have the moral high ground. The Greens don’t have a consistent approach to ethical/moral issues: it’s pure political expediency.

    It’s tiresome to hear the Greens being so self-righteous. A small dose of modesty, please.

  27. When civil unions and marriage are legally the same thing, why do radical gay activists still pursue marriage?
    The reason I believe is simple.
    Someone else said they can’t have it, and radical activists don’t like being told what they can and can’t have.
    This is not about gay rights, it is about gay pride.
    It is arogant and this attitude is the achilles heal of the gay community, I wants it, so I takes it.

  28. The institution of marrige has always been considered an expression of a heterosexual relationship.
    Is it wrong for people to express their distinctive sexuality or not?
    The radicals are seeking to fundamentally change the definition of a long standing institution, it is not bigoted to have an opinion that the definition should not change.
    It also has nothing to do with human rights.
    I am not the one trying to change anything, it is an absolutely tiny minority trying to redefine the relationship of millions of people.

  29. Shunda,
    when you change the premese’ you cannot apply the conclusion to the origional arguement, what you are resortng to is a strawman and nothing more.
    Marrage is not an expresion of hetrosexuality, it is an expresion, quite liturally, of ownership. lol.
    Marrage within the queer community would not hurt the hetrosexual community at all. In my view marrage and civil unions should have no distinction, the state should mearly set about a framework to recognize a union between two people and ensure the contrat is upheld. Any recognition of such a union as sacred should remain in the hands of the respective cult. your cult would have no need to recognise a union within their framework and as such your cult could keep it exclusivly hetrosexual; the recognition not the union itself.

  30. “No same-sex marriage will impinge of the rights of anyone else. If they are staunch hetero and hate gays and lesbians, same sex marriage still doesn’t impinge on their rights.”

    What a load of garbage.
    How can wanting marriage to REMAIN an expression of heterosexuality be impinging on the rights of others.
    Is me wanting my car to remain my property impinging on the rights of others?
    What stupid blind logic you have Toad.

  31. This is an absolute issue of principle Cheris. No same-sex marriage will impinge of the rights of anyone else. If they are staunch hetero and hate gays and lesbians, same sex marriage still doesn’t impinge on their rights.

    I’ve never understood the arguments of the likes of the Destiny Church, because they are based on some “queer is evil” paradigm that is not even supported by the Bible. If you go down that path then anyone who has ever masturbated (Sin of Onan, apparently) will go to hell too.

    The issue of morality relates to those who oppress with no justification. It is the homophobic bigots who are immoral, not the GLBT community.

  32. And i must mention…..(I’m part English) my Dad’s from Europe. If i returned to my home country (as lesbian women) because of the Green perspective on LGBT issues, I would have universial protection and equality in provision of goods and services. Also better partnership rights. The Greens in London have also called on Local Education Authorities to issue all education workers with clear guidlines/policy on their responsibility to provide a safe, inclusive learning environment. The Greens in Europe (all their MP’s) are calling for Europe-wide survey of best practice in Policing LGBT communities with view to develop Charter for gay-friendly policy. They even have policy leaflet for LGBT community. I’m sure their alot more proactive….

  33. One thing i do like about the Green Party, is your stance on supporting GLBT rights. But few things i’m wondering is – is your support in order of political correctness, or is it because its a passion of your party (to support GLBT)? And you can’t say that ‘same-sex marriage’ is a matter of policy, not moral issue – as we cannot ignore the social context in which legislative changes are made.

    I’m a law student & Politics student. If you’ve reviewed the case of quilter Judge Thomas J noted in Quilter that a number of states believed homosexuality to be fundamentally wrong, and cultural or religious belief made them less tolerant of gay & Lesbians than other states. I believe that fundamental rights in society may not be denied if no palable harm is caused – simply on the bases that others deem them sinful, immoral, or distasteful. The question is – whats the social context in which we can pass such legislative changes.? POLICY changes should be on the basis of post-modernalism, and it cannot ignore the issue of morality…..as its the basis to which we order society. Does that mean we don’t support Gay Marriages? NO. But, what it does mean, is society ready for such a change?

    If you ask those who supported Civil Unions (in Labour) which i have done……they’d say….(Quote), ‘it was such hard work…

    When the rubber hits the road, ‘whos prepared to do the hard work?’

    The panic defence needs to change……it seems like your working on good policy changes. I didn’t read much ‘call for action’ or support in Rainbow Labour on such issues (in news write-up). For this i commend you for your support

  34. Interesting to see that Stephen Franks has been running a Wellington Central campaign mostly on ‘family values’ and sexist, homophobic, anti-beneficiary/solo parents diatribes, in contrast to the positive messages that have come through from Grant Robertson and other GLBTI-friendly candidates.

    “Express” magazine, in it’s fortnightly issue dated 22 Oct – 4 Nov, has taken the time to do an election special ‘face off’ between the two main parties, in a very well presented double-page spread. Worth a look.
    http://www.expresstoday.co.nz/news.php?n=357&c=1 and
    http://www.expresstoday.co.nz/news.php?n=358&c=1

    Not quite the line Stephen Franks is spouting!

  35. BTW:

    “Greens co-leader Russel Norman said allegations that the Vela family – worth $180 million – had an insider within NZ First, manipulating its racing, fishing and tax policies, were “deadly serious”.”

    Excellent Greens. Applause!!

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