Title: Indefensible Bill Credit: Craig Young Comment Sunday 20th November 2005 - 12:00pm1132441200 Article: 1013 Rights
UFNZ List MP Gordon Copeland wants to outlaw same-sex marriage in New Zealand, even if it's not taking place yet. As well as that, he wants to condone discrimination on the basis of marital and family status through mutilating the Bill of Rights Act 1990. He must not be allowed to do this. Granted, we already have civil unions and spousal equality legislation on the statute books, but Copeland seems hell-bent on trying to ram this through Parliament, regardless of the drawbacks. What are those drawbacks? In order, they're these: 1. This legislation is unneccessary. Under Quilter v Attorney General a decade ago, the Marriage Act 1955 continues to survive as heterosexual only legislation. While civil unions are open to straight, lesbian and gay couples, marriage isn't, for now. Why "fix" something that isn't broken in the first place? 2. This legislation is too radical. The Bill of Rights Act 1990 is not entrenched, unlike the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada's written constitution, so it is subordinate to existing legislation. Nevertheless, it needs to be taken seriously, and the Solicitor-General is required to assess legislation to see whether or not it transgresses the Bill of Rights Act, and if so, whether the transgression is valid. Hon. Michael Cullen did so during the last term, and recommended that the bill not proceed. If the Bill of Rights is weakened in one area, what about others- like refugee or asylum seeker rights, or within anti-terrorism legislation in the field of civil liberties? It sets a worrying precedent. 3. This legislation has a sectarian motivation. Its only supporters are fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics, and Copeland is one of the latter himself. Mainline Protestant Christians and liberal Catholics, Jews, Buddhists and others do not share those particular sectarian views. Thus, this law erodes religious freedom and church/state separation principles of sound democratic government. 4. This legislation is not based on sound evidence-based research. Copeland needs to explain why we should support this merely on the basis that contemporary papal adulation of Thomas Aquinas and adapted 'natural law' arguments say that heterosexuality is somehow 'normative.' For conservative Catholics, yes. For the rest of us, sound social science and psychological research needs to be proposed. And please, not that of the 'marriage movement,' which does a clumsy job of concealing its sectarian basis for public policy questions. 5. This legislation is also a radical attack on the principle of family diversity. It is transparently an attempt to import Stephen Franks' radical Supplementary Order Paper 336, debated and defeated heavily during the Relationships (Statutory References) Act debate already. Given that it has already been debated and roundly rejected in February 2005, is it really neccessary to reinvent the wheel? 6. If this is supposed to be a guarantee of 'children's rights,' on what basis is this claim made? Is it the discredited work of Paul Cameron? Is it Althea Nagai and Robert Lerner, whose work shows no awareness of dominant research methods within pediatrics and developmental psychology? Has he read the work of Judith Stacey and Tim Biblarz, who have reviewed the relevant social psychological and pediatric research and found that same-sex parents have good communicative relationships with each other, with their children and with opposite sex grandparents and other male relatives? And that adult children of same-sex parents show no adverse educational or employment outcomes? 7. Why should we emulate Australia and the United States blindly, when Canada is also a Commonwealth nation, and has actually moved toward federal recognition of same-sex marriage? And when Britain has passed its own civil partnerships legislation? Would Copeland say the same on other matters, like that of asylum seekers and detention camps, which the Australian Catholic Bishops have condemned? Or the treatment of Aborigines and indigenous people, another source of contention? Moreover, Australia has no robust constitutional document similar to our own Bill of Rights Act. 8. United Future has no mandate to do this, and nor does Copeland, who narrowly avoided the fate of his former colleagues Larry Baldock, Murray Smith and Paul Adams. It has only three MPs, less than a third of its initial caucus representation during the last parliamentary session. 9. Moreover, as the measure in question relies on an unentrenched Bill of Rights, there is nothing to stop the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill being repealed at some stage in the intermediate future, when United Future is sufficiently weakened, and offending measures being erased from the Bill of Rights. So why bother in the first place? 10. Our communities have shown restraint in not pushing the issue of same-sex marriage reform after the passage of civil union legislation. We expect our opponents to follow the same principles of civil peace and not try to relitigate matters that have been conclusively resolved in the last parliamentary session. No-one is forcing the Christian Right into carrying out same-sex marriages against their will, and the very idea is absurd. Why should it be allowed to obstruct any future legislative reforms that might permit same-sex marriage at some point in the intermediate future? We have a window of opportunity to avert this foolishness. If enough of us let our local constituency MPs, or preferred political parties, know about our opposition to this measure, then it may be pulled from the ballot paper. Particularly, concentrate on Labour, the Greens, liberal Nats and ACT. We have until 7 December to do so. Let it not be another day of infamy. Craig Young - 20th November 2005    
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