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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

! Marriage Equality

The marriage redefinition bill (the 'gay marriage' bill) is about to be debated for the final time this evening in parliament. It is expected to pass comfortably as it did at the last stage.
I said at the beginning of the bill's passage that if President Obama had not said he was in favour and had John Key then not echoed it immediately Louisa Wall's bill would have been marginal at best. What were civil unions then? - being the obvious question. Same sex couples already have legal equality through changes to the Matrimonial Property Act and the Civil Union Bill amongst others, The equality issues and what the redefinition of marriage will mean has been cast in so many rainbow scarves and accompanied by so many chants of 'love' from one side and so many bashing Bibles and cries of damnation on the other that it appears to be more of a convenient political battleground for liberal versus conservative than a remedy to overcome actual discrimination. The pro and anti campaigns don't seem to be too fussed about specifics, both seem to want to paint in broad brush strokes. Love v God, Equality v Sanctitity.

The crux is that homosexuals seek legitimisation of their sexuality. Wanting to be normal and taken seriously is a universal impulse, and that cannot be achieved in a society of homophobes. So they campaign, they are in positions of power and they've got many supporters. An expression of that sexuality is a relationship, so the corollary of this means the relationship be accorded the same social status as.a marriage. This is why civil unions are not enough - it is the anti-marriage, strpped down to the bare legal paperwork. What they are after is the romantic trappings that the word marriage encapsulates. The church, the wedding, the cake, the outfits, the honeymoon, the tradition of marriage is what is being sought. No matter that all of these things are rooted in heterosexual union however. This is the objectionable part for many: that the essence of the marriage bond is a solemnisation of the sex act (whether or not children are an issue) and there is great difficulty that homosexual acts ought to be given the same seal of community approval. With the sterile neologism of civil union these notions don't arise. With equal access and inter-change of marriage and civil unions I was under the impression there was no remaining discrimination. I was wrong.

But it is not equal access to the word marriage and the connotations of the marriage institution only. The bill is a short-cut to changing the adoption law - the outstanding discrimination in favour of the hetero married couple. This could have been done separately, but this is a wider campaign they understandably don't want to confront the individual issues directly or in isolation when they can use the opportunity and window Obama has given them.

Hidden from sight too is what Wall described on Radio Live at the start, She seems to consider that a marriage licence is a right to have children and that marriage implies family. These are the parts of the definition she is pursuing. She has been savvy enough not to raise it again, and that is: one of the consequences of the bill is it will allow same sex couples to have state-funded IVF and fertility treatment. That is what she said on Radio Live. At this point she lost me. She gave the critics old call about 'unnatural' an outing. She was advocating for the unnatural and that is too far even for an athiest. The problem is it is difficult to argue against the bill without being labelled homophobic or assumed to be Christian such are the polarised opinions.

If what Wall, and the LGBTI campaign, are really after with this semantic hijacking is making themselves feel more accepted (at the expense of alienating large numbers of people) and funding scientists to help them have kids they cannot otherwise concieve- ones destined from the outset not to be raised by one of their biological parents - then I can't see the bill as being particularly worthy. After months of debate the proponents of the bill haven't convinced me why the law should be changed. It comes down to, 'it's harmless'. But it's also dumb. Dumb for trying to change a definition like marriage, and going down the slippery slope towards the overtly unnatural. Just change the adoption law instead.

 The bill passed 77 - 44. Hugs all round esp. for Louisa Wall.
The gay community feel validated by the law as now being equal and normal in the same way straight people are. That has been the impression from the commentary tonight. So it is difficult not to also feel that the change will be positive for them and should be supported as such.

...But why should I stop my whining when we've had Kevin Hague saying if you aren't in favour of the bill you are with the Catholics and the bigots? Not helpful. Not much of the vaunted love when they assert that style of hegemony. [And see NRT's post: "Note the "noes". They are bigots and we should be trying to unseat and destroy them at the next election."] I've never heard such banal, disconnected, fluffy and light-weight, sentimental speeches being accorded such superlative applause. Not all, but most were like this (Te Ururoa Flavell explaining the use of the term 'takatapui' to describe a male campanion comparative to gay partner, for example, was informative). Even worse waffle and non-sequitors came from the anti side - they did themselves and their good lord baby Jesus no favours. But I will say this for the hate-mongering homophobes, at least they weren't so self-righteously self-congratulatory. I thought the Fundies were sarcastic, but check out the snarkiness towards them from the pro side. That got irritating when the smugness set in, around about the point the blessed virgin began weeping blood.

High tide at the love-in occured when the hopeless Amnesty NZ and the despised Telecom twittered their support for the bill too. Sure sign of a fad. Everyone in my liberal twittersphere seemed to be solid supporters. Why? Because they are convinced that it is a human rights equality issue. I remain unconvinced that it is, or that any discrepencies (between marriage and civil union) cannnot be sorted out without changing the definition of marriage. The main reason the pro MPs cited in their speeches for support seemed to be as a signal to gay teens that society values them. That's laudable, but should the complex task of self esteem in LGBTI youth be a basis for changing the definition of marriage? Will this bill reduce the self harm? I doubt it. It doesn't matter now, the law is the law.

UPDATE 10:30AM 18/04/2013
Quite a few hangovers from all the partying last night if the twitter feed is any indication. Quite a lot of hating from the talkback Christians this morning too. The Fundies are going feral.

The bill has promted other question s about the legal institution of marriage, like polygamy. Extending the logic it could be argued marriage should be abolished and only civil unions recognised, with multiple partners possible. Marriage then being a private matter. That would be an inclusive and consistent, tidy fix, but then that would really be the destruction of marriage (in the official sense) and the Christians would go beserk and now so would the same sex couples who get married... wed, whatever. Which raises the other question: what about all the other terms associated with marriage? Husband, wife, spouse, bride, groom etc. Once the law starts changing one definition then they have to carry it through in order to make it internally consistent, so that the same esx couple can also use those words too, presumably.

UPDATE 2:00pm
Maurice Williamson's speech has been well-received. Very funny.


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