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Backlash bills make bad laws

Fri 2 Dec 2005 In: Comment

Historically, backlash bills make bad New Zealand law. If they reach the stage of implementation, they cause inevitable problems in their wake. The Marriage (Gender Clarification) Bill is no exception. I suppose New Zealand abortion laws are the best examples of this. Fortunately, New Zealand women and pro-choice doctors have been able to navigate their way through a ridiculously complicated system that has become streamlined since passage of the amended Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act in 1978. Before that was passed, there was one abortive attempt to prohibit abortion altogether, but the Health (Amendment) Act was struck down due to mediocre drafting in the courts. The anti-abortion movement was aghast to find that it didn't have a definition of embryos or foetuses within its drafting, nearly four years after that, in a case called Wall v Livingstone. The case wended its way through the courts, with the delightful outcome that as there was no such definition, antiabortionist third parties couldn't interfere in women's confidential medical procedures with their doctors, nor were doctors obliged to provide such information. Accordingly, the antis drafted an even worse piece of legislation entitled the Status of the Unborn Child Bill in 1983, which would have made it impossible to obtain an abortion in New Zealand. This nasty little misogynist wish-fulfillment fantasy was aborted at its first reading, but it returned in 1999 when extremist Right to Life New Zealand kept promoting this abortion prohibition bill when SPUC didn't like it, and got expelled from SPUC as a result. Consequently, while male homosexuality and sex work have been decriminalised, abortion access has only ever been partially decriminalised in New Zealand, and taxpayers money is being wasted on an overblown regulatory structure. Fortunately, it doesn't interfere with women's actual abortion access, but isn't it high time that abortion was completely decriminalised in this country? I'm sure the marijuana decriminalisation lobby would argue that they are in an analogous situation. They have started to argue that cannabis prohibition is fueling criminal networks that allow production and distribution of P/crystal methamphetamine, a far more deadly drug. And thus, we come to the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Bill. Despite what its apologists state, this is badly drafted backlash law. It proposes to ban same-sex marriage with no other rationale than it is against the precepts of sectarian religious organisations, and that Australia and the United States have done the same, and that marital status and family status discrimination is somehow justifiable. Oh, and antigay fundamentalist 'public meetings' wanted it. Oh, and templated, unoriginal proof texts, subjective assertions and mendacious US Christian Right junk 'scientists' stated that same sex marriage was 'bad' in their submissions. Size counts more than submission veracity or quality, apparently. And finally, a status report on antigay/SSM grouplets and websites. At the time of writing, there were only the following visible below. Again, I must ask- do they actually want this to pass? Recommended: Real Issues e-newsletter has a link to their new Marriage (Gender Clarification) Bill homepage. They're acvocating that pro-bill groups use their nzvotes webpage. Well, two sides can play at that game: Dave Crampton's webpage New Zealand fundamentalist newspaper Craig Young - 2nd December 2005    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Friday, 2nd December 2005 - 12:00pm

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