Family First, own goals and desperate measures

I guess Family First is in a hard position. They really don’t want Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill to succeed but they’re faced with a situation where most New Zealanders support it, where it passed its First Reading with an emphatic majority, and where the Select Committee that heard submissions has given the Bill a ringing endorsement.

What makes it harder still for them is that the main argument they have previously used – scaremongering about restriction of religious freedom – has been nullified by the Select Committee’s unanimously agreed changes to the Bill which put it beyond doubt that churches will not be required to do or say anything different to what they do now.

So, it’s no surprise to see Family First stooping to desperate and irresponsible measures and amongst these have been a number of own goals.

Who could forget their theft of “Marry You” by Train (who in fact support marriage equality) on their website? Or their extensive reliance on a “study” on “gay parenting” that was later reviewed as worthless by experts and caused the journal that had published it to apologise, saying it didn’t meet basic scientific standards?

Or the public opinion poll they commissioned, which, despite rigged questions, still demonstrated a clear majority in favour of the Bill over those opposed to it?

Last week saw more scaremongering, which I responded to on Whale Oil, where Family First supporters were convinced that the words “husband” and “wife” were being outlawed or somehow expunged from New Zealand law. In reality there are some Acts in which gender-neutral language has to be used (as it already is, in most Acts that refer to married couples) in order for the law to make sense, but in about three quarters of the Acts where they appear, those words can be and are being retained.

Another of their recent themes has been that the Select Committee process was rushed. David Farrar at Kiwiblog has very helpfully pointed out that this is nonsense, and that the timetable is essentially set by Parliament’s standing orders.

Today, Mr McCoskrie has published what he thinks is his “smoking gun”, an email from Ministry of Justice officials setting out some timing considerations for producing their report about submissions, which refers to the Committee’s “desire to progress its deliberations quickly”.

Unfortunately Bob has it wrong (yet again). In the sometimes arcane world of Parliament, “deliberation” refers to the specific process whereby select committees make their final decisions about their report and the amendments being recommended to the bill they are considering.

It is certainly true that the Committee did wish to conduct its decision-making process as expeditiously as possible. That is because we wanted to hear as many oral submissions as we possibly could and so extended hearings as close as we could to our reporting deadline of 28 February, which was set by Parliament in August last year. In other words, the tight window the Select Committee set for deliberations was to enable as many submissions to be heard as possible.

In the end, both the departmental report (which summarises the submissions and the issues raised, and makes recommendations to the Committee) and the Committee’s report have been extremely well received.

It’s true that there were people who would have liked to make an oral submission who did not get a chance to (probably more in favour than against, in fact). But I am absolutely confident that every member of the Committee, both those in favour of and against the Bill, would put hand on heart to say that the submissions we heard were a fair reflection of the entire range of arguments that submitters made in their written submissions.

I think most reasonable people would conclude that it is reasonable to stop when hearing more submissions will not add to the Committee’s understanding of the issues.

About Kevin Hague 163 Articles

Green Party Member of Parliament

12 Comments Posted

  1. General question to anyone: Are there any situations, maybe such as small towns for instance, where it might be hard to find a celebrant who isn’t a religious Minister?

  2. The Department of Internal Affairs designs the forms, rather than the Select Committee (probably a good thing!) But I can say the Committee made it crystal clear that we didn’t want words that some people obviously have a strong attachment to removed from the forms unless strictly necessary.

    s.29(1) will still state that no celebrant is obliged to marry any couple, and the Human Rights Commission (who would consider any discrimination-based complaint) are clear that this means exactly what it says. There were only a very few submissions concerned about the situation of celebrants who were not church-based.

    s.29(2) has been added because quite a few churches and church-based celebrants were very anxious that the existing s.29 would not be sufficient to protect their freedom of religious expression. It’s intended to give the greatest reassurance we could to them.

    Ultimately, of course, the fact is that a same-sex couple seeking to marry is extraordinarily unlikely to go to extreme lengths to be married by a celebrant who is strongly opposed to doing so, especially given that there ate so many celebrants – church-based and not – who are keen to do so!

  3. 1. Is it proposed to remove bride and bridegroom from marriage certificates?

    2a Did the committee consider stating the right of individual celebrants to opt out of same sex marriages (as well as organisations)?

    2b Is it assumed that individual celebrants can opt out of any particular occasion, so this was not important?

  4. Homosexual ‘marriage’ is ‎حَرَام ḥarām….

    As is getting a tattoo, drinking booze, eating pork, adultery, consuming animals with fangs (no more cat pie, Gareth Morgan!) and not saying grace before mealtimes.

    Feel free to institute any of these provisions in your own house, Mahomed. It’s a free country!

  5. “Homosexual ‘marriage’ is ‎حَرَام ḥarām (forbidden). No if, buts or maybes.”

    Maybe. But it was practiced in some muslim Bedouin comunities according to Wilfrid Thesiger. Haven’t confirmed this from other sources, but if he’s correct there maybe room for a debate.

  6. Hi Kevin. Sorry to go on a small nitpicking tangent, but as it’s coming from a representative of the Green Party (which is very outspoken on copyright reform):

    “Who could forget their theft of “Marry You” by Train”

    Copyright infringement is not theft. It’s copyright infringement, which is an independently defined crime that should be dealt with on its own merits. If the owner didn’t still have the content after it was copied, it’d be more comparable with theft.

  7. Homosexual ‘marriage’ is ‎حَرَام ḥarām (forbidden). No if, buts or maybes.

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