- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill First Reading

The moment the vote was announced on Parliament TV last night.  The ayes had it on the voices clearly but they called for a personal vote - in the old money a 'division' - and because the MMP parliament is so used to the party vote system there was confusion and delay as to the procedure. It went on forever, adding to the drama.

I listened to the speeches and Wall said a lot of very fine things about the principles and history of equality but hardly any time on the sorts of things the bill would produce beyond name changes, ie. adoption and what the rights of family entail. While I didn't find all of Wall's arguments compelling or all the parallels she was drawing appropriate the arguments on the conservative side were wooly, far more opaque than anything Wall had said, a series of cop-outs, and enrobed in insinuation and prejudice. The "marriage equality" side had clearly won the debate in the House. Dr Hutchinson's conversion from the agin to the pro was probably the best because it was a surprise.

The Speaker announced it was 78 - 40. That's staggering. How could it have come to this point? The short answer is Barack Obama. That got Key in and took with him about half a dozen or so in the Nats as yes-men, plus the half a dozen or so in Labour who cannot dare be out of step and in paraiah land of no hope with Sio, Ross Robertson and O'Conner. That would make it nearer 50/50, but there is a definite trend towards liberalisation that makes those who stand against risking appearing like history's losers and bigotted to boot - that must have weighed on many MPs minds.

We have gone from a homosexual prohibition/mental illness/it doesn't exist scenario in the mid 1980s to the parliament of New Zealand last night declaring, basically, that the definition of marriage is no longer exclusively between a man and a woman. The conventional understanding - and legislative framework - of marriage that goes back (at least the English word to the medieval period) has been turned on it's head and in a very short space of time. How that social progress will be translated in real life on the ground where homophobia is in varying degrees rampant, is another question.

The select committee will be where the implications will be investigated and submissions will be plentiful, terse and turgid no doubt. The debate needs to happen at this stage because I didn't hear nearly enough of the facts last night. For example the other layer of changes of definition ("spouse" was mentioned) has follow on consequences. As for which MPs may change their minds at the second reading - and in light of any possible amendements to what is laudibly a beautifully simple text - I would think a very few may swap to opposition (because they were only humouring a first reading), but it is likely that more will come across to support as the trendies push the "weight of history" meme and as their own prejudices are confronted and defeated as the committee grinds on.


Post a Comment

<< Home