I’m glad this topic came up, as we are currently pursuing Marriage Equality over here as well. It passed the first reading in Parliament, and the Select Committee is currently going through over 20,000 submissions relating to the bill. For reference, in 2004 when the Civil Union bill was debated here in NZ there were approximately 6000 submissions received with over 4000 of those being opposed. Although we don’t yet have full data on these current submission we do know that over 10,000 of those were through one Marriage Equality website alone. And many more, including my own, were submitted directly to Parliament so it’s safe to say that the majority of submissions are in support.
I know the LGBT community is sometimes split on this, some people don’t want to have marriage due to it’s religious and historical connotations and that is fine. For us though, it is a no brainer. Yes, we have had what we consider to be our wedding in 2005, and yes we had our legal civil union 13 days later. However those were only because that was all we could do at the time. Had marriage been an option, marriage it would have been.
When I proposed to K there was no sign of any legal recognition anywhere on the horizon. We planned our wedding for the time that suited us, it was only after that date was set that the law caught up and the Civil Union Act was passed into law. We thought about changing the date, but we had chosen it as it was four years to the date of our meeting, plus it was the start of school holidays so we could have the following two weeks together. Things weren’t all straight forward, we had to explain to some people why we were doing this when it wasn’t even legal but in the end we stood in front of our friends and family as they witnessed the celebration of our love. Nearly two weeks later, at the first possible opportunity we had a very small Civil Union ceremony in our home. We had only our marriage celebrant (who also works with K), K’s parents and our witnesses – one of K’s sisters and a friend of mine. We are very proud of our Civil Union, and through the national debate it became clear that marriage equality wasn’t coming anytime soon.
Fast forward to 2012, and Obama’s historic declaration of support for marriage equality. Our PM, who we really don’t like, idolizes Obama so jumped on his mate’s bandwagon and signalled his own private support for the same. Of course there was a clear line that this was his personal opinion, not necessarily his political opinion, and besides his government had no plans whatsoever to address it so he was fairly safe to say so without having to back it up. However, here in NZ we have a ballot system where any Member of Parliament can put forward a bill to be debated in Parliament. In no time at all, two openly gay MPs had written two separate bills and entered them. Because there are so many bills in the ballot box, and so little time for non-government sponsored bills, there still wasn’t much chance of anything happening when all of a sudden in July one of the bills was drawn.
Since then it’s been a roller coaster of emotions. We are absolutely stoked (excited) that this is a real possibilty, and we are bolstered by polls signalling as high as 65% support for equality. Like I said it passed it’s first reading easily, and watching that debate with many of our straight politicians supporting us was fantastic. For us, it closes a couple of loopholes and would allow us to pursue adoption as a couple which is potentially a high priority. There are some that want to alter the Civil Union law to close these loopholes but still more arguing that separate is not equal. Churches are split, there are certainly plenty of religious groups vehemently opposed to it but there are also a lot of congregations and Christian groups who are equally vocally supporting it. The vote in Parliament is a conscience vote, which means that MPs are not required to vote along party lines but instead make up their own minds. It was great to see Members from all the major parties voting for the bill, and even better to see the youth faction of all of these parties have been lobbying their MPs to support it. Although I really hope it does pass this time, I truly believe that if it doesn’t, it’s only a matter of time.
The down slide of the roller coaster is the negative comments, the protests, the campaigns. But mostly that while perusing a petition against the bill, I came across one very familiar name – K’s sister.
The same sister that was the MC at our wedding, and our witness at our Civil Union. She is even in our wills as one of Sprocket’s guardians if we both died. To be honest, I don’t think we were overly shocked at the time, as she has in recent years become very involved in a church that we know is anti-gay, and there have been a couple of small issues over the past 18 months. Firstly that her husband refused to come to the hospital to meet Sprocket as he was struggling with the fact that he didn’t have a father, and secondly that she told us a few months later that she didn’t ‘believe in’ ivf. WTF?
We were obviously very hurt at both of these things, but seriously this tops it. Things are very tenuous right now as we haven’t really talked about it apart from one conversation with K where it came out that she has always had issues with it, and even with civil unions. This was complete news to us as we used to have many long conversations about such things with both her and her husband, and we certainly would not have had her so involved in both days had we known her true feelings. Heck if we’re talking about ‘traditional marriage’, they’re an interracial couple that have both been divorced before themselves.
To be honest we don’t know whether she’s telling the truth, or if she now has a skewed view on the past due to her new found religious beliefs as there’s one or two things that she’s said that are just plain made up. We honestly thought she was one of our best supporters for years and years, and to have this thrown up now is very difficult to deal with. I mean people who meet us and get to know us, along with our boring suburban lives, are meant to get more supportive of gay rights, not less!
I do believe that she loves us both, and I know she loves Sprocket, but how can she possibly not get it? We have bent over backwards to help her and her family, we were even spending a lot of time looking after her 13yo son when this all came up, and for this…I don’t even have the words.
We know that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that is true, but for someone supposedly so close to us to basically stand there and basically say that they have issue with your child being born via ivf, their husband has issue with our child being brought up by two mums, and finally that they don’t believe that our relationship is deserving of the same rights as theirs just sucks. It is too personal.
We are hoping and praying for this debate to be over and done with once and for all. It won’t go away, whether this year or five years from now, marriage equality will happen. I know that as he grows up we will have many conversations about such things with Sprocket, but for now I am glad that he is too young to know what is going on, especially in his own family.
Although the signs are positive right now, Marriage Equality in our country is by no means a foregone conclusion. A number of MPs that voted yes at the first reading did so to further the debate, and there is no guarantee they will continue to support it, but it is our hope that they will see the news from around the world, particularly the recent election victories in the US and realise that the tide of public support is indeed turning.