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August 15, 2011 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Going to the Chapel

The legalisation of gay marriage in New York has given momentum to the international debate on same-sex unions.

Following euphoric scenes in America with tears, mass engagements and public declarations of love, countries across the world are reassessing their recognition of same-sex partnerships. Is conferring the legal rights of marriage on civil unions the best way to achieve justice? Or is the only path to equality down the marriage aisle with lace, church, priest and cultural baggage in tow? With these dilemmas gaining publicity in an election year, Salient feature writer, Selina Powell, talks to your democratic representatives about the issue.

Civil Unions—the Same Legal Rights?

New Zealand law does not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, but provides for same-sex couples to enter civil unions. Those against further extending recognition of same-sex relationships have argued that the current rights couples have under civil unions are sufficient, and that married couples are treated in the same way by the law.
Bill Atkin, Relationship Property and Family Law lecturer at Victoria, notes that there are two differences in the way that the law treats a civil union when compared to a marriage. The most significant difference is that a married couple can adopt, while a civil union couple cannot. While not solely discriminating against same-sex couples (heterosexual de facto and civil union couples cannot adopt children), the brunt of this provision impacts on the gay community.

Grant Robertson, Labour MP for Wellington Central, explains that over 100 pieces of legislation were amended to provide equal rights for civil union couples when the Civil Union Act was introduced. However, the Adoption Act was seen to be so outdated that a comprehensive overhaul was needed, not just the inclusion of civil unions.
While successive Governments have failed to implement these changes, Charles Chauvel, Labour Spokesperson for Justice, says that the Labour party is focused on eliminating the inequalities between civil unions and marriages. Chauvel has drafted a private member’s bill to update adoption laws for Labour MP, Jacinda Ardern, which he says is widely supported by the Labour caucus. Kevin Hague, Greens MP is also advocating for comprehensive adoption reform which would enable same-sex couples to adopt.

A Long Engagement

Despite inequalities in the rights of married couples when compared with civil union couples, advocating for same-sex marriage is not the highest priority for Greens or Labour. National continues its deafening silence on the issue.
Although Chauvel believes that, “every lawful relationship deserves the full protection of the law”, the current priority for Labour is to confer the rights of marriage on civil unions, rather than initiating a separate campaign for same-sex marriages.
This policy has been developed in consultation with rainbow communities according to Chauvel. He notes that if further talks revealed a preference for a marriage equality campaign, “we would review our approach, and I would personally be supportive, but that has not been the view expressed to us to date.”
Hague supports gay marriage but has chosen to focus on other campaigns while the composition of Parliament makes successful marriage reform unlikely.
“Eventually I believe that New Zealand will legalise gay marriage (or alternatively repeal the Marriage Act, making marriage itself a religious-only institution) but I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. I’d say at least five years away and more likely ten or more.”
Hague says that his highest priority at the moment is to create a more supportive environment for young people coming out. Several Rainbow Greens initiatives are based around this aim.
Perhaps the largest hurdle to the introduction of gay marriage in New Zealand is the high level of Government apathy on the issue. Most National MPs, including John Key, voted against the Civil Union Act when it was enacted in 2004. Chris Tremain, National MP for Napier, says that National has “no policy” on same-sex marriage and that each MP is free to make their own decision on the issue if a bill comes before Parliament.

Public Views on Same Sex Marriage

An independent public poll on same sex marriage conducted by Research New Zealand in the wake of events in New York found that 60 per cent of New Zealanders over 18 believe that same-sex marriages should be permitted in New Zealand. The poll found that females and younger age groups were more likely to favour gay marriage. Research New Zealand Director, Emanuel Kalafatelis,observed in a media release that the findings show “attitudes in this area are in advance of legislation”.
However, Family First NZ disputes this view on the basis of a study which it commissioned through another independent research organisation, Curia Market Research. The Curia Poll found that only 42 per cent disagreed with continuing to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and woman.
Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First, says that these results are, “in direct contrast to the 60 per cent support for gay marriage argued by Research NZ”. McCoskrie notes that, “politicians would do well to progress slowly on this issue rather than capitulate to strong lobbying to change the definition.”
A possible explanation for the difference between the polls, is that while the Research NZ poll is proportionate to the New Zealand population, only 25 per cent of those polled by Curia were between the ages of 18 and 45. According to Statistics New Zealand figures, around 45 per cent of the New Zealand adult population falls into this age bracket.
David Farrar, from Curia Market Research, concedes that young New Zealanders, who are more likely to support same-sex marriage, are under represented in the poll. However, Farrar notes that as fewer young New Zealanders vote, this poll is more representative of the New Zealand voting population. He also observes that women were over represented in the survey (at 57 per cent), and generally women are more likely to support same-sex marriage.

Redefining Marriage?

Family First has frequently expressed opposition to same-sex marriage. McCoskrie argues that including couples of the same sex within marriage would infringe on traditional definitions of marriage. He contends that, “Equality does not mean we must redefine marriage for everyone.”
McCoskrie does not think that prohibiting same-sex marriage discriminates against the gay community. He also questions whether the ‘all love is equal’ campaign is a sound one in support of same-sex marriage.
“Same-sex people cannot now legally marry. But neither can a whole lot of people. A five-year old boy cannot marry. Three people cannot get married to each other. A married man cannot marry another person. A child cannot marry her pet goldfish.”
Hague emphatically rejects the view that allowing same-sex couples to marry would undermine marriage.
“On the contrary, I maintain that any state sanctioning of relationships that exclude some couples who love each other is cheapened by its embedded prejudice. Marriage is worth more and is more meaningful if all couples who love each other can marry.”
The symbolism of denying same-sex couples the right to marry is important, according to Hague.
“Making the ultimate form of state approval of a loving relationship unavailable to same sex couples signals very powerfully that we remain second class citizens, with our relationships not as valuable as those of our heterosexual fellow citizens.”

Gay Marriage v Equal Rights for Civil Unions

Some argue that if a couple can receive the same rights within a civil union as within a marriage, there is no harm to society in restricting the right to marry to heterosexual couples. If same-sex marriage was allowed, it is likely that many gay and lesbian couples would continue to enter civil unions because of their secular nature, just as many heterosexual couples currently choose civil unions over marriage.
Peter Tatchell, Australian-born gay rights advocate, has argued for the right to marry in the Sydney Star Observer, despite the fact that Tatchell does not personally wish to marry.
“Personally, I don’t like marriage. I share the feminist critique of its history of sexism and patriarchy. I would not want to get married. But as a democrat and human rights defender, I support the right of others to marry, if they wish. Everyone should have a choice.”
The American Psychological Association has recently called for both state and federal officials to legalise same-sex marriage. The recommendations of the Association are based in research which found that prohibiting gay marriage causes increased rates of stress amongst gay and lesbian communities which expose individuals to a higher risk of physical and mental illness.
The APA has rejected civil unions as sufficient state recognition of same-sex unions. Clinton Anderson, a Spokesperson for the APA, told CNN at the beginning of this month that, “Anything other than marriage is, in essence, a stigmatisation of same-sex couples. Stigma does have negative impacts on people.”

Living The Dream

A question that remains is how long same-sex couples will have to wait before they receive full legal acceptance from their state, whether in the form of a civil union or marriage. In New Zealand it appears that marriage equality is at least a change of Government away. With equal rights through civil unions on the agenda for both Labour and Greens, this is more likely to be the form of state recognition for same-sex unions.
While civil unions might be the pragmatic route to equality, for many marriage conveys a universal, historic affirmation of love which cannot be replaced by a state construct.
As Thatchell notes, “Marriage is the internationally recognised system of relationship recognition. It is the global language of love. When we were young, most of us dreamed of one day getting married. We didn’t dream about having a civil partnership.”


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Comments (46)

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  1. Craig says:

    So, what McCoskrie and Family First are saying is that we should discriminate against same-sex couples, based primarily on fundamentalist and religious sectarian grounds? Typical.

    Granted, no-one can marry animals (because zoophilia is illegal under the Crimes Act) or undertake polygamous heterosexual relationships, because they’re illegal as well. However, this doesn’t apply to lesbian and gay relationships. Considerable mainstream pediatrics and developmental psychology research, moreover, shows that LGBT relationship and parenting equality leads to positive outcomes for children born into such family structures.

  2. Brian says:

    Interesting. Craig Young is quick to comment on other people’s websites, but has shut down all dissenting opinion on his own blog. Tolerance? Nah!

  3. Amy says:

    Craig is wrong. Studies that appear to indicate neutral to favorable child outcomes from homosexual parenting have critical design flaws. These include non-longitudinal design, inadequate sample size, biased sample selection, lack of proper controls, failure to account for confounding variables, and perhaps most problematic – all claim to affirm the null hypothesis. Therefore, it is impossible for these studies to provide any support for the alleged safety or potential benefits to children from same-sex parenting.

  4. Warren says:

    If you can’t discriminate against same-sex couples, how can you then discriminate against polygamy, polyamory, and any other types of consenting relationship?

  5. Simone says:

    If Craig is right, then why don’t we just pass a law requiring all children to be brought up in LGBT family structured homes?

  6. Steve Taylor says:

    Amy = 1; Craig Young: 0

    Amy, I have previously torn Craigs “research” quotes and references to shreds on his own blog, so spectaculalry successfully that he banned me from posting on siad blog. Ask him to cite his sources, and you will discover how easy this is to do. He has a PHd in Womens’ Studies for goodness sake, and attended a Christian school as a young lad. Still abreacting to the discipline of old, no doubt. C’mon Craig, come and play with Amy and I.

  7. Craig says:

    I see there’s an email blitz going on, presumably directed through the Family First website, which has linked to this. All right, let’s deal with this. Amy is no doubt citing the work of Lerner and Nagai, two ‘hired gun’ social conservative commentators who have no background in pediatrics and developmental psychology. Most US child health, development and welfare organisations support US LGBT relationship equality and same-sex parenting.

    Isn’t it peculiar that all the opponents of same-sex marriage and parenting who have posted here are fundamentalist Christians? Once again, I must ask- why should one enshrine a particular subjective, religious sectarian philosophical viewpoint in law when it is not shared by the majority of New Zealanders?

  8. Trevor says:

    Wow Craig – “all the opponents of same-sex marriage and parenting who have posted here are fundamentalist Christians?” Are you on first name basis with every Christian in NZ? Hilarious

  9. Laughing says:

    Go Trevor.. haha!

  10. Mike says:

    Craig, I’m no fundamentalist Christian – and neither are most of my mates. Yet a majority of us oppose same-sex marriage and esp same-sex parenting. Maybe it’s because we’re small town, rural, hunters, farmers, outdoorsman … (you’d probably call us ‘rednecks’ – seeing as you’re pretty good at passing judgement on others) and we haven’t become de-sensitised by the loud-mouthed, liberal city slickers world-view (generalisation of course). What a load of B.S, Craig…

  11. Steve Taylor says:

    How are those global assumptions and liberal doses of intolerant hypocrisy working for you Craig? You quote: “Most US child health, development and welfare organisations support US LGBT relationship equality and same-sex parenting”. OK, let’s in your words “deal with this”: cite the source of the organisations you nominate, and then cite the research platform they stand on to verify their position. Let the games begin! :) No more ad homenim attacks – your own constituency tore you a new one when you tried to do this at the Red Queen blog, so I am assuming University students will quickly do likewise with you on this issue.

  12. Steve Taylor says:

    Batter up, Craig.

  13. Steve Taylor says:

    Craig, you quote: “I must ask- why should one enshrine a particular subjective, religious sectarian philosophical viewpoint in law when it is not shared by the majority of New Zealanders?” uummmmm, maybe like religeous secularism Craig? A cursury review of the last NZ census will affirm that “the majority of New Zealanders” subscribe to a faith paradigm – as you do – you are just too idelogically embedded to recognise the double standard.

  14. Adam says:

    I honestly don’t see why we need studies to tell us whether two consenting and loving adults, regardless of their sex, are adequate guardians for a child. I’m sure there’s millions of harmful, dysfunctional heterosexual couples out there with kids out the wazzoo, yet it’s the gays that are targeted because, um, bumsex? It’s unclear. Regardless, what is optimal for a child shouldn’t be defined by gender normativity and slavish devotion to the nuclear family because, all things considered, the only thing that really matters is the commitment of the parent to the child. Just because the parents are Bruce and Steve and not Bruce and Eve doesn’t automatically make them less capable of handling children. But no, apparently everyone has a right to have children as long as they’re not breaching one verse in Leviticus.

    But really, that anybody would willingly and aggressively interfere in the rights of a homosexual couple to celebrate their love – and would be proud of denying others that right because they’re “small town” or anti-intellectual or what have you – speaks volumes about the insecurity of some conservatives in New Zealand and the world over. I mean, jeez, it’s not your bedroom they’re getting busy in.

  15. Steve Taylor says:

    Translating Adam’s comment: “If someone wants to do something, then they should be allowed to do it, regardless of the evidence to the contrary” – that’s not an an expression of love, Adam, that’s an invitation to nihilism. It’s not about sexual orientation Adam, it’s about the fact that some family structures and forms are better for children than other family structures and forms – love does not always “find a way”, nor “conquor all”, nor is always “the answer”.

  16. Adam says:

    Well then Steve Taylor I eagerly await your referendum banning all single parents from having children and requiring parents to be subject to bi-annual inspections in order to ensure that they are raising their kids in that one true family structure that is best for kids. I’d hate for you to be arguing this line inconsistently, is all.

    Also, why exactly are homosexual parents not good for children? All you’ve done is say “no gay parents are bad” without actually offering any substance.

  17. Adam says:

    Also, that is a terrible interpretation of my statement that seems to suggest that I advocate nothing short of anarchy. The point I am making is that homosexual adoption literally harms no-one – it gives children a loving, stable, sustainable household that’s much better than a foster home, it allows a gay couple the opportunity of having a child, it releases pressure from the state in some small way by taking one child off its hands. This is basic JS Mills stuff – homosexual marriage and homosexual adoption provide a net benefit to society and there is nothing to suggest otherwise (not that one should be screaming for studies on homosexual adoption, because we’d never dream of doing the same for heterosexual adoption).

    But then, you seem to think that love for a child and commitment to bringing it up as a stable individual is secondary to whatever the fuck agenda you bring to parenting (it does not ‘conquor all’, after all), so there we go.

  18. Steve Taylor says:

    Adam: Cite your sources for your claims, and burn your strawman arguements – they are not relevant to this discussion. And park your assumptions – my client group includes same sex parents and couples.

  19. Adam says:

    Sources for my claims? Claims that homosexual couples are, in fact, just like every other couple? Claims that homosexuals can be capable, nay, great parents? Claims that homosexuals should be allowed the rights we extend to straight people? Claims that rejecting someone’s right to have their relationship legally recognised as a marriage or their right to have a family are not justified just because the individual is gay?

    You want sources for these claims? How about basic common sense? Or, if that won’t work, how about the American Psychological Association – – or the American Medical Association – – both of which roundly support gay adoption? I’d say they’re pretty authoritative, bipartisan bodies.

    You’re the one arguing in favour of restricting rights to a class of people, of treating them differently to everyone else on the basis of their sexuality. If anything, it should be you citing sources to back up your claim that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt. The onus is on you to show that there is a harm to be addressed, otherwise there is no justification for restricting their rights.

  20. smackdown says:

    im in steve taylor’s client group

  21. Nicola Wood says:

    Omg homophobes make me want to bang my head against the wall.

  22. Steve Taylor says:

    Nicola: Seeking to kill the debate by bleating “homophobia” is simply an attempt a censorship. The term “homophobia” was coined by Psychologist George Wood in 1969, to describe a fear and loathing of homosexuals, or a homosexuals internal fear and loathing of self. The word has atempted to be captured to now mean ‘anyone who might have an alternative to the homosexual lobby”. It is what is known as a “whipword” – a word that is used to intimidate and silence people into submission – you are going to have to do better than that to silence me.

    Adam: Comon sense? Let me ask you a social constructivist question: whose common sense? I find it somewhat inconsistent that you nominate the APA as a legitimate source of authority, when it was the APA who used to catagorise homosexuality as a mental health disorder (DSM III from memory). What, now that they have changed their stance, they are all of a sudden credible? I won’t bore you with the validity and reliability issues pertaining to th APA “bible” the DSM IV TR – suffice to say that the lead author of this premium publication now label it as “bullshit”. The AMA policy document you link to is a document affirming non-discrimination in terms of access to healthcare, not a document in support of same sex marriage – my, what a long bow you have attempted to draw :)

    OK, in the absence of your ability to do so – let’s frame the debate. I am going to take a stance that marriage between a man and a women is, on the evidence (as opposed to ideology, popular opinion, or personal prefernce), the best (not perfect, just the best) environment to have and to bring up children. Further, I am going to argue that any other family form or structure is (on the evidence) inferior to this standard. Since we have a few readers who have a default response of foaming at the mouth the moment Family First is mentioned, I am going to cite a couple of reports that they have on their website, and I would invite you to first read them, and then respond to me -these reports are here: and here:

    Have a read, prepare your defence, and then come back to me with your objections and alternative position.

  23. Steve Taylor says:

    Above post amendment: George Weinberg I’m sorry, not George Wood.

  24. smackdown says:

    literally no one cares ahaha owned

  25. Steve Taylor says:

    Smackdown: No, it is not that no-one cares, it is that no-one has the ability to win the debate against me, because I’m right, and the evidence says I’m right, and my opponents know it. However, I can tell you one thing – it’s getting a bit boring having such easy victories.

  26. smackdown says:

    so its just gay parents who r evil is that the story morning glory

    what if a kid was raised by say two sisters

    coupla brothers in on the act

    or three men like on full house

    huh youre just slagging off danny tanner aren’t you

    uncle jesse <3

  27. Adam says:

    Steve, some of us have tests and essays this week (I, myself, had two with twenty-four hours), so I wouldn’t declare victory from twenty-four hours of radio silence.

    Anywho, I read your ‘sources’ and all I can say is stop misdirecting. Yes, marriage is a social good (mainly because society keeps telling itself it is and perpetuating all the stigma that leads to the negativity directed at relationships and family units not built on marriage), but nowhere in either of those reports does it say that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed it or that they shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children. Indeed, in the second report, they conclude that “Marriage is an important social good, associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike.”

    So, the question to you then becomes – if marriage is such an amazing social good that helps everyone and makes society all warm and fuzzy and awesome, why deny it to homosexuals? If marriage is good for children as well as adults, why deny orphans and children in foster homes the opportunity of being adopted by a nice married gay couple? What is it specifically about gay people that means they should be denied the fairly significant (and roundly positive) rights of getting married and starting a family?

    As to the APA and AMA – so what if the APA said, way back when, that homosexuality was wrong? Fuck’s sake, man, the New Zealand government didn’t legalise homosexuality until the 1980s, doesn’t mean they’re all bigots now – opinions change with new information, and just prejudices that existed in the APA in the 1980s shouldn’t impact on the APA’s decisions now. As to the AMA, you clearly did not read the link through, because it says (quite clearly) – “H-60.940 Partner Co-Adoption. Our AMA will support legislative and other efforts to allow the adoption of a child by the same-sex partner, or opposite sex non-married partner, who functions as a second parent or co-parent to that child.” Because holy shit they support same-sex adoption which was part of my point (note I never said the AMA supported gay marriage because gay adoption was part of the argument from the start and you were against that too).

  28. Nicola Wood says:

    Steve – your notion that we do not deserve the same rights as you, or that we’re less legitimate or capable human beings than you – less capable of loving and caring for children – is undoubtedly rooted in deep-seated irrational fears of those who are different to yourself. You are most certainly a homophobe.

  29. Nicola Wood says:

    No matter how much you try to rationalise what you say with reports from such reputable and oh-so-totally-not-homophobic organisations as Family First, the reality is that the whole reason you’re doing it is fear.

    But guess what? There’s nothing to be scared of! :)

  30. Steve Taylor says:

    Adam; the answer to your first question will depend on what you believe the purpose of marriage is, and I would invite you to consider the history of the institution. Marriage primarily was for the procreation of children within an exclusive male – female relationship – anything else, regardless of the shrill minority lobbying, is a poor cousin by comparison, and an illigitimate claim on the institution of marriage. Gay couples do have families – the evidence says that they are not as stable as heterosexual families – don’t shoot the messenger – read the literature. The APA didn’t change their stance on the evidence – they changed their stance on the lobbying – which means that they an organisation that ruptured their credibility the moment they gave into a minority elite because they didn’t like being called names – same goes for the AMA.

    Nicloa: While you may poor enormous energy in attempting to box me into your own predujice, your emphatic assertions do not make the tenure of your ad homenim atacks on me the truth. Someone scared of homosexuals wouldn’t be front and centre on a live blog discussing this issue, now would they? The bottom line here people is that a caring society does what is best for children – if an option for the care of children is not the best option for children, then that option is inferior to the best option – I’m not sure how much simpler I can make it for you. You seem to believe that marriage and adoption is some sort of “right” – and they are not, regardless of the sexual orientation of the people involved. I have no more “right” to get married or adopt children than anyone else – both are a responsibility and a commitment to a vulnerable being – children are not chattels or optional extras, or “must haves”.

  31. Your Name says:

    Steve Taylor’s argument is so powerful that it is not necessary to talk about it.

  32. Steve Taylor says:

    I’ll say it again: Victory is mine.

  33. Steve Taylor says:

    I am stupid and no one hugged me when I was a child.

  34. Steve Taylor says:

    A sure sign of victory: when your opponents can’t even remember their own name. Keep ’em coming folks – I got all year.

  35. Steve Taylor says:

    I got all year because I’m totally alone.

  36. Steve Taylor says:

    I suggest that my anonymous friend who is using my name will need all year because he couldn’t keep up with the epistemelogical tome of the debate :)

  37. Steve Taylor says:


  38. Steve Taylor says:

    Very funny. Posting as me; all of you. Some of you are doing better than others.

  39. Steve Taylor says:

    Hey! No one can do impressions of me except me!

  40. Steve Taylor says:

    This isn’t funny any more. Go be uniformed liberals elsewhere please while us adults debate.

  41. Steve Taylor says:

    …Well, this certainly does not change the fact that my argument and evidence have defeated all comers.

  42. Steve Taylor says:

    Even if some of the comers were me…

    …or you.

  43. Steven Tyler says:


  44. Steve Taylor says:


    I AM Sparacus.

  45. Steve Taylor says:

    Whoever you are (and yes, this IS the real Steve Taylor) – what a crack up. Made my day.

  46. Electrum Greenstone says:

    Will there be snowy pictures of Victoria-in-the-Snow in the next Snow-lient?

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