National Party leader Don Brash will give his personal support tomorrow to a bill which bans same-sex marriage in New Zealand and allows discrimination in favour of married couples over others, including those in civil unions. The National Party caucus decided to change their pre-election position on the bill, which would have seen blanket party support for it. Today, the caucus decided to allow a conscience vote on the private members bill, which is sponsored by United Future MP Gordon Copeland. "I intend to vote for the Bill on the grounds that the Bill simply codifies the existing common law position which holds that marriage is an agreement between a man and a woman," Brash told GayNZ.com. "Same sex couples have the option of formalising their relationship by means of a civil union." Brash said last year he supported the idea of civil unions, but voted against the Civil Union Act because he believed it should go to a referendum. Opinions within the party are diverse. National's family spokesperson Judith Collins told GayNZ.com last month that she had not yet decided how she would vote on the bill, but "I don't think it is necessary in accordance with the existing law," she said. "Something that has given some people a lot of angst is the thought that they need to reaffirm the existing law. It's a bill that a lot of us feel, possibly, doesn't need to be passed, but having said that, can understand that some people have become so confused about what the law is that there may be some wish to actually pass a law that already actually is there." National's only openly gay MP Chris Finlayson is not a supporter of same-sex marriage, but he intends to vote against the bill because he considers it to be a waste of Parliament's time. A lesbian couple's attempt to marry through the couts in 1998, known as the Quilter case, has codified the common law already. "Gay marriage is not permitted under the Marriage Act and Quilter makes that clear," he says. "The various appellanrts in the Quilter case went to the Human Rights Committee and that failed, so I would have thought the law was clear beyond doubt. And that that lack of doubt was emphasised by the passage of the civil unions legislation." One of the surprise Nat votes against the bill will come from the notoriously homophobic Brian Connell, who slammed the Civil Union Act as a homosexual recruitment drive. In a column for the Ashburton Courier last week, Connell reportedly referred to the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Bill as a cheap political stunt, and accused United Future of hypocrisy, saying instead they should have brought down the government last year over the Civil Union Act.
Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff
First published: Tuesday, 6th December 2005 - 12:00pm
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