|An ill Reverend Margaret Mayman's speech was read by her partner Clare Brockett ahead of the first reading of the marriage equality bill. It's another gem our readers have requested a full transcript of! "I am delighted to be here supporting the Marriage Amendment Bill and celebrating the enormous support that New Zealanders have expressed for the Bill. I am speaking today because some of the strongest opposition to the bill is coming from religious people, and I want to assure you that there are many, many people of faith who are passionate about the Bill, not despite our faith but because of it.
"Marriage equality is a spiritual and ethical imperative. Because the over-riding message of our faith is that we are called to practice justice and compassion. "Marriage has changed and evolved through history. It existed before either the church or the state had a role in it. Historically people were considered married when one said to the other, “I take you to be my husband or wife.” But the decision to marry had communal implications. Marriage was about property, procreation and gender inequality. "So claims made by social and religious conservatives that marriage is unchanging or that there is one biblically sanctioned form of family are simply wrong. "It is only over the last 150 years that heterosexuals have reinterpreted marriage as a loving commitment between two people who are equals, who may or may not raise children. "And it seems to me that it is precisely because heterosexuals have changed marriage from a gendered economic arrangement to a relationship of love and commitment, that gay, lesbian and transgendered people are seeking to join it. "The Bible says very little about marriage as we understand it today, and nothing at all about same sex marriage. The texts that are used to condemn homosexual acts were written by people who had no understanding of the scientific fact that human sexual orientation is diverse. They believed that the earth was flat and that demons cause disease. We do not. "The Bible has nothing to say about two people who experience same sex attraction and love and who wish to commit themselves publically to one another, and to receive the benefits and protections available to citizens in such relationships. "The primary question for us should be, “is this legislation that promotes justice or legitimates injustice?” The answer is obvious. Justice, should be at the heart of the moral-spiritual life. It is a moral issue, an issue of equal justice and respect, and not of sexual practice or family structure. "The biblical call to compassion (to love your neighbour as yourself) provides the faith mandate for marriage equality. "Religious traditions celebrate that humans are created in and for relationship and that sexuality is God’s life-giving gift. Today, we affirm the dignity and worth of all people and recognize sexual difference and diversity as a blessed part of our created being. There can be no justification for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. "New Zealand is a country with rich religious diversity. No single religious voice can speak for all traditions on issues of sexuality and marriage, nor should government take sides on religious differences. Therefore, religious clergy have the right to discern who is eligible for marriage in their own tradition. Despite the scaremongering, this bill will not change that. "In addition, all clergy should be free to solemnize marriages without state interference. Some religious communities already perform marriages and unions for same-sex couples, even when the law does not permit same-sex civil marriage. "There is no religious consensus on this matter. "Some churches forbid divorce and remarriage but we would not condone having these theological views inscribed in NZ law. It is exactly the same situation for marriage equality. The best way to protect our religious freedom is to respect the separation of church and state and ensure that there is equality under the law. "As Christians, we believe that the faith we affirm challenges us to speak and act for justice for all who seek to express their love in the commitment of marriage. Some people of faith will disagree; others may be undecided. "Common ground can be found when we reach out to promote what is best for individuals, couples, families, children, and society. "There is nothing to fear, and so much to bless and celebrate. "Thank you." Margaret Mayman - 8th September 2012