Title: Final destination Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 1st April 2013 - 2:32pm1364779920 Article: 13112 Rights
And so, the Marriage Equality Bill has navigated past the Committee stage of the legislative process, before its third and final reading. Can anything stop it now? In the final days before the committee stage, Family First and its satellites didn't seem to be putting up much effort at all. Family First should have at least churned out a spurious propaganda misinformation brochure online against inclusive adoption reform, but only resorted to an opinion poll about same-sex parenting instead.   Predictably, it was ignored by most of the straight mainstream media. Meanwhile, the Society for Promotion of Community Standards claimed that the Marriage Equality Bill "violated" human rights and "religious freedom" amongst religious social conservative heterosexuals. How, exactly? In a confused media release, SPCS cited conservative Catholic 'natural law theory' against the premise that LGBT citizens should have access to secular civil marriage, without noting that 'natural law theory' is itself a sectarian conservative Catholic philosophy and an infringement of meaningful religious freedom, faith/state seperation and human rights and civil liberties in itself. Apart from horrified squawks from anti-abortion and conservative Catholic Right to Life New Zealand down in Christchurch, nothing else was audible. Or visible, for that matter. On Thursday, a fortnight agomy partner and I headed up to Palmerston North to help his parents shift into their new flat from Wairarapa. For the whole hundred kilometres or so from Wellington, we only spotted a single billboard opposed to marriage equality and inclusive adoption reform, in front of Otaki's Highway Baptist Church, which read If I have two daddies, who is my mummy? Blink and you'd miss it. Meanwhile, the Christian Right had a female child asking the same thing on the Catholic News Service website. On March 27, then, the bill entered the Committee of the Whole House stage, at which mischievous conservative Christian MPs would then try to insert surreptitious amendments to mitigate its effects and make it a backdown from total legislative equality. None of them succeeded. It's possible to track the proposed Supplementary Order Papers in Parliament on its own website, which is what I did. The initial signs were that there would only be two SOPs, numbered 187 and 188. SOP 187 was from expelled former New Zealand First List MP Brendan Horan, while SOP 188 was from his former party leader, Winston Peters. Both of them had a single proposition in mind, which was that the third reading and final passage should be deferred until there had been a binding referendum on the subject. If this sounds familiar, it should. During the second reading, Peters and Horan had moved exactly the same SOP amendments at that time, when they lost (83-33). Despite the much-heralded apparent targeting of the adoption reform section of the Marriage Equality Bill, there was no website mention of any other SOPs on Monday, or Tuesday morning, as the time drew near for the Committee stage on Wednesday. On Tuesday March 26, a New Zealand Herald Digipoll showed that within its sample group, there was a perceptible shift of opinion against marriage equality (48% opposed) but that fifty two percent still supported equality. However, the poll may have oversampled Aucklanders and older age cohorts, who are both disproportionately opposed, due to demographic cohort social conservatism and the fact that Auckland houses most New Zealand Christian Right pressure groups and conservative Christian media in the current context. I checked the New Zealand Parliament website, which still only showed SOPs 182, 183, 187 and 188 on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, two more appeared- SOPs 202 and 203. Su'a William Sio, Labour's Mormon social conservative MP for Mangere, moved that celebrants should be protected from 'reprecussions' should they choose not to preside over same-sex nuptials (SOP 202). Reprehensibly, Tim Macindoe (National, Hamilton West) launched a 'right to discriminate' radical amendment to gut the service provision discrimination section of the Human Rights Act. If SOP 203 had been passed, any baker, wedding photographer, public registrar or other fundamentalist or conservative Catholic in a secular occupation would have had carte blanche to discriminate against same-sex couples. Rather annoyingly, neither One News Tonight or TV3's Nightline provided any extended coverage of the Committee stage votes. It was left to's own Jacqui Stanford to provide the neccessary details about what happened next. To summarise, it was this. Given that Supplementary Order Papers 187 and 188 were merely rehashed versions of the earlier Supplementary Order Papers 182 and 183, they were ruled out of order. Although Paul Hutchison and Mark Mitchell had also indicated celebrants rights SOPs would be tabled, they weren't. Nor was any SOP attack made on the adoption clauses of the Marriage Equality Bill. One wonders if this will be reserved for the third reading? In the event, SOPs 202 and 203 were defeated- in Sio's case 82-22, in the case of the radical Macindoe amendment 80-36. At the close of debate, the second reading passed its Committee stage 77-43 (Gerry Brownlee forgot to lodge a proxy vote in the latter instance). So what happens now? The third and final reading may be early in April 2013. After that, barring a brief period of alteration of official documentation, LGBT couples will be able to undertake fully equal civil marriages with one another, and eligible married same-sex couples will be able to adopt children (usually as a result of long-term prior coparented parental relationships with the children of their partner, the children's biological parent, according to New Zealand statistics. "Stranger adoption" is almost extinct in New Zealand.) Meanwhile, Family First has launched yet another front group, My Marriage Pledge. It states that the signatory won't vote for any individual MP or political party that supported the Marriage Equality Bill. Turnabout is fair play, however. Perhaps we could try a My Equality Pledge and do the exact opposite? (One of the most amusing sideshows of this period was a piece by a fundamentalist blogger which argued that 'same sex marriage' had been legal during the time of Nero. Is that the same Nero who also married Claudia Octavia and Poppaea Sabina- and raped Rubria, a chaste Vestal Virgin? Granted, he may have been undeniably bisexual, but marriages per se in ancient Rome were reserved for heterosexuals only, and were only 'legal' if certain rituals and ceremonies were carried out, prescribed in law. Any same-sex wedding mock 'ceremonies' between Nero and his male lovers Sporus (a eunuch)and Pythagoras were not legal entitlements. Actually, too, he wasn't the only one to do so, either- Messalina, the unfaithful first wife of Nero's predecessor Claudius, also contracted a spurious mock 'marriage' to another man. Although not illegal, ancient Roman gay male sex was discouraged, ridiculed and stigmatised.) The Christian Right was predictably angry at this development, but it remains to be seen whether any resultant citizens referendum petition will be successful. It will be nonbinding and opposition to marriage equality is a far less popular stance than opposition to the Clark administration's parental corporal punishment bill back in 2007. If it is forced into a situation where any such petition lapses due to the lack of authentic signatures, then Family First will probably have to make a humiliating backdown. Or will the World Congress of Families provide it with the $50,000 that it needs for its advertising costs when McCoskrie travels over to Sydney for that May 2013 bigotfest? And should we therefore move to have the CIR Act 1993 amended? Should we insure that it cannot be abused to attack human rights and civil liberties, whether in statute form or within international human rights treaties that New Zealand is signatory to? As well, perhaps, as ruling out any referenda proposal that has already been refused by Parliament during legislative debate, greater donor transparency, restrictions on overseas donor sourcesand reporting requirements and a stricter lapse regime. If Family First fails to obtain enough petition signatures after one year, then it should be permitted no further extensions. Someone may need to move a private members bill for that purpose. Recommended: (Horan, Referendum): SOP No 187: http://www.legislation.govt. nz/members/2013/0187/latest/ DLM5079701.html (Peters, Referendum): SOP No 188: http://www.legislation.govt. nz/members/2013/0188/latest/ DLM5080101.html (Sio, Celebrants): SOP 202: http://www.legislation.govt. nz/sop/government/2013/0202/ latest/whole.html (Macindoe, Right to Discriminate): SOP 203: http://www.legislation.govt. nz/sop/government/2013/0203/ latest.whole.html "Shock poll over gay marriage" New Zealand Herald: 26.03.2013: news/article.cfm?c_id=object_ id=10873630 Citizens Initiated Referenda Act 1993: http://www.legislation.govt. nz/act/public/1993/0101/ latest/DLM317193.html Bruce Frier: "Roman same-sex weddings from the legal perspective" Classical Studies Newsletter 10: Winter 2004: classics/news/newsletter/ winter2004/weddings.html Not Recommended: My Marriage Pledge: http://www.mymarriagepledge. Family First: ,, http://www.protectmarriage.   Craig Young - 1st April 2013    
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