New Zealand Moves Forward On Marriage Equality
New Zealand’s Parliament is to debate changing the Marriage Act to make it clear that marriage can be between two people regardless of sexual orientation or gender at birth.
Interestingly, the Marriage Act has never defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. A previous effort to define marriage as being between a man and a woman was defeated in Parliament, with the current National Party (Conservative) Prime Minister being one of those who voted against it. In practice, however, marriage licenses have only ever been issued to couples consisting of a man and woman.
New Zealand currently allows gay couples to enter into civil unions, but not either civil or religious marriages, under laws passed by the previous Labour Government. While civil unions confer most if not all of the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, many New Zealanders see shutting gay people out of the institution as being discriminatory. Surveys show approximately 60% of New Zealanders being in favour of gay marriage.
One of the great things about the effort to extend equality to gay couples is that it is not limited to one party. The current bill is sponsored by a Labour MP (Member of Parliament), but support has come from across the political spectrum. A separate bill jointly sponsored by a Conservative MP and a Green Party MP to update the Adoption Act so that gay and unmarried hetrosexual couples can adopt children is also before Parliament, and is likely to pass.
The gay marriage bill needs 62 votes in Parliament to become law. At the latest count, 53 MPs have said they’re definitely for the bill, with only three saying they’ll definitely vote against. As you can see from the second link, opponents are gearing up to fight the bill. With only 9 more votes needed though, and the majority of the public in support, it seems likely to pass, maybe even before the end of the year. If it does, it’ll be good day to be a Kiwi.