|And so, the Government Administration Select Committee has reported back, and given approval for the Marriage Equality Bill's progression to second and third readings. How did the opponents react?
Lawrence was not happy to learn that Dorothea and Anne planned to elope together, and tore off his shirt in protest... Predictably, there was a wail of despair from Family First, which objected to the insertion of gender neutral language into the Marriage Act 1955 and ancillary legislation to replace the statutory terms "husband and wife." It is seeking advice over practical amendments allowing conservative religious organisations to opt out of providing religious same-sex weddings to LGBT individuals if it is against their religious doctrine- but Family First have suddenly decided that they want to give individual celebrants the personal "right" to discriminate against LGBT couples. Oddly enough, it didn't comment about the approval of inclusive adoption reform within the select committee report. It is also still complaining about the "truncation" of select committee processes, given the large proportion of submissions received to do with the Marriage Equality Bill- even though only forty percent of the total submissions received opposed marriage equality and inclusive adoption reform.
Since then, it has moved on to additional ploys. Family First is still churning out imported disinformation about imaginary "consequences" of marriage equality. One recent such effort involves an article from Australian Mercatornet's David Cook, attempting to distort the implications of the formation of an Australian "Polyamory Action League." Understandably, the PAL is annoyed at the continuing sensationalist, biased misrepresentation of their particular mode of relationship from the Christian Right and has formed an organisation to combat such media representations and that's all. Corrective media work is just that, and not to be confused with a corrective polyamorist spousal rights legislative reform campaign, which PAL is not engaged in. As well as that, Ian Bassett, the New Zealand Christian Right's favourite legal counsel, has put forward yet another questionable legal opinion purporting that relationship celebrants and religious institutions will "not" be protected from retaliatory and "vindictive" response if they refuse to conduct LGBT weddings because it's against their religious doctrine. Could I suggest that someone contact David Ryken and Associates again to provide a more balanced evaluation of this situation?
Presumably, given that they have now been defeated over the select committee phase of proceedings over the Marriage Equality Bill, it will now try to subvert Members of Parliament that it hopes "might" switch allegiances to opposing the bill. I suggest that New Zealand LGBT community members might want to peruse the arguments that Family First makes on its "Protect Marriage" front group website and then use rebuttals to those claims from our own website and others to do with issues like same-sex parenting, religious freedom and faith/state seperation, the personal impact of marriage and parenting inequality and other relevant concerns.
Still, I suspect that most National Party supporters of the bill won't waver. Ironically enough, the destructive antics of the UK Christian Right and their effects on the Cameron administration may provide a salutary lesson in what might happen here were they to similarly damage John Key's leadership and authority on this front.
As for the Opposition and minor parties, Family First is seen as anti-Labour and anti-Green on the mainstream centre-left, so it won't sway opinion within those camps. ACT's party organisation seems to have tamed John Banks and given his traumatic experience with his former Future New Zealand/Kiwi Party carpetbaggers, Peter Dunne is gloating over the misfortune of the Christian Right on this issue and has turned out to be a good ally. The Conservative Party's anti-Maori rhetoric isn't helping to dilute the already supportive stance within the Maori Party either.
Outside Parliament, if we're going to see a cash influx or imported speakers from the US Christian Right, it will happen over the next few months, as the bill receives its second and third readings. Possibly, this might not happen. The US Christian Right appears to be too busy interfering in the United Kingdom and French marriage equality debates to bother about a much smaller nation like New Zealand, or it would have done so by now.
All of this leads to the following question. If Family First was unable to outflank pro-bill submissions during the select committee phase of the debate, then how will it fare if it tries to operate a post-passage referendum on this issue? Moreover, it will be a non-binding bill, so it will have no substantive effect. Therefore, if it is forced to abandon any such campaign after a year or so, as happened with the proposed referenda against prostitution law reform and for binding citizens referenda, the effect will be devastating. Questions will be asked about the effectiveness and long-term survival of Family First as a lobby group. If it does survive...
Recommended: Legalise Love: http://www.legaliselove.org.nz/ Marriage Equality New Zealand: http://www.marriageequality.co.nz/
Not Recommended: Family First: http://www.familyfirst.org.nz/ Protect Marriage: http://www.protectmarriage.org.nz/ Conservative Party: http://www.conservativeparty.org.nz/ Michael Cook "Taking Same-Sex Marriage Step by Step" Mercatornet: 06.03.2013: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/taking_same_sex_marriage_step_by_step Craig Young - 9th March 2013