Despite a frenzied media campaign, the New Zealand parliamentary vote in favour of same-sex “marriage” will have no immediate impact in Australia.
After New Zealand’s single-chamber parliament voted by 77 votes to 44 to change the definition of marriage, the Australian media were unanimous that Australia had to follow New Zealand, just as they had been unanimous in calling for change after the ALP national conference overwhelmingly reversed its long-standing policy on marriage in 2011.
Yet both the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott immediately indicated that the New Zealand vote had not changed their views.
Asked at a community Cabinet meeting in Melbourne why Australia lagged behind New Zealand in legalising gay marriage, Ms Gillard said she would not be changing her mind on the issue. “I doubt we’re going to end up agreeing,” she said.
Tony Abbott pointed out that the Australian parliament has recently voted on the issue.
“We had a parliamentary vote on this just a few months ago and it was fairly decisively rejected. That’s what this parliament had done,” Mr Abbott said.
Pressed by interviewers on his personal view, he said the “definition of marriage as between a man and a woman should continue”.
NSW Independent, Tony Windsor, pushed for a referendum on the issue, in light of the government’s promise to conduct a referendum on recognition of local government in the Commonwealth constitution. He said, “Polls on gay marriage say it’s what the population wants. A way to resolve it is through a referendum. It’s a bit like the gun debate in America — the politicians appear to be out of step with the people.”
The vote in the New Zealand parliament followed a concerted campaign which had enlisted the strong support of the National Party Prime Minister, John Key, who, despite his suits and ties, is not a conservative, but a libertarian.
It also had the support of a majority of the NZ Labour Party, the main opposition party. The politician behind the amendment to the marriage act was lesbian minister Louisa Wall from the NZ Labour Party.
New Zealand had already gone part of the way towards same-sex “marriage” by its Civil Unions Act of 2004, which allowed same-sex couples to enter civil unions.
Despite the weight of political support for same-sex marriage, there remains strong opposition in the wider community, as well as in the Christian churches.
Two online polls, conducted just before the NZ parliament voted for same-sex “marriage”, showed that an overwhelming majority of those polled opposed the legislation.
A text poll taken during the Campbell Live TV show, just before the NZ parliament was due to vote, showed 78 per cent against the “marriage equality bill” and only 22 per cent for it. Some 17,000 people voted in the poll. Show host John Campbell ended his program saying, “We are a bit surprised.”
The online opinion columns of the New Zealand Herald, the main newspaper in New Zealand, also showed a substantial majority opposed the legislation.
Narelle Henson, writing in the Waikato Times, expressed this commonly-held view.
She said: “Same-sex marriage is not, by its very nature, the same as heterosexual marriage. It never will be. No matter how much we fiddle with the law, or censor the use of words like ‘bride’ and ‘groom’, the fact that homosexual marriage does not tend toward the conception and raising of children will forever set it apart.
“That is why advocates of real marriage argued against the inclusion of same-sex couples, by law, into the definition of marriage. They understand that marriage plays an astonishingly important role in our society, and that role is getting lost in all the mucking around with laws and words.
“They understand that the great purpose of the institution is to provide a framework in which a family may be created, and the next generation raised.
“They understand that marriage is not a ‘right’, just as friendship is not a ‘right’. Marriage is a responsibility. It is first a responsibility toward the happiness, security and trust of another, and second a responsibility to the happiness, security and trust of a child.”
Professor Rex Adhar, of the law faculty at the University of Otago, put the argument forcefully.
Rejecting the claim of marriage equality, he wrote in the New Zealand Herald: “Lacking sexual complementarity, gay couples cannot achieve complete sexual bodily union. And lacking reproductive capability they cannot be biological parents.
“They can provide love but they cannot provide the example that a father and a mother can. They lack the inherent structure to rear well-rounded, psychologically secure children. A parent of each sex is needed to raise and teach a child, because the child needs a model of his or her own sex, a model of the other, and a model of the relationship between them.”
He concluded, “To redefine marriage (to allow same-sex partners) is to abolish it. Partnership marriage does not keep the existing institution and simply allow more persons to join it. No, it eviscerates it and substitutes a new concept.”