Some of the speeches last night were just awesome. So I've gone and skimmed the draft transcript and selected the lines that I thought were some of the best of the entire evening.
I have had a reverend in my local electorate call and say
that the gay onslaught will start the day after this bill is passed. We are
really struggling to know what the gay onslaught will look like. We do not know
whether it will come down the Pakuranga Highway as a series of troops, or
whether it will be a gas that flows in over the electorate and blocks us all
in. I also had a Catholic priest tell me that I was supporting an unnatural
act. I found that quite interesting coming from someone who has taken an oath
of celibacy for his whole life.
I also had a letter telling me that I would burn in the
fires of hell for eternity. That was a bad mistake, because I have got a degree
in physics. I used the thermodynamic laws of physics. I put in my body weight
and my humidity and so on. I assumed the furnace to be at 5,000 degrees. I will
last for just on 2.1 seconds. It is hardly eternity. What do you think?
Let me repeat to them now that all we are doing with this
bill is allowing two people who love each other to have that love recognised by
way of marriage. That is all we are doing. We are not declaring nuclear war on
a foreign State. We are not bringing a virus in that could wipe out our
agricultural sector for ever. We are allowing two people who love each other to
have that recognised, and I cannot see what is wrong with that for neither love
nor money. I just cannot.
But I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this
bill right now. I give you a watertight guaranteed promise. The sun will still
rise tomorrow. Your teenage daughter will still argue back to you as if she
knows everything. Your mortgage will not grow. You will not have skin diseases
or rashes, or toads in your bed. The world will just carry on. So do not make
this into a big deal. This bill is fantastic for the people it affects, but for
the rest of us, life will go on.
I simply do not believe that it is right to determine an
issue that affects only minorities by way of a referendum. If that was the
case, I doubt New Zealand would have given women the right to vote when this
country did, nor would this country have legalised abortion when it did, nor
would this country have decriminalised sex between two consenting males when it
did. Minority rights issues are not referendum issues.
I want to briefly
talk also about the question of children, because it is a common theme that
some opponents have been raising. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that every
child must have a mother and a father. I know that it is a touchy subject, but
as someone who actually grew up without a mother and without a father, I think
I am somewhat qualified to speak on the issue. A child does need both male and
female influences in their life, but those influences do not necessarily have
to come from their biological parents. What is most important is that a child
is raised in a loving and caring environment. What is most important is that
the people who are raising that child give them a home that is safe, warm,
educating, and nurturing. If that environment just so happens to be a same-sex
marriage, then that child is just as fortunate as every other loved and cared
This bill is also about inclusion. Quite simply we will not
succeed as a country or society if we continually find reasons to exclude
people. The only place that takes us is division and hatred. Why on earth would
we want to stop a couple who love each other and who want to make a commitment
to one and other from doing that? Why would we want to exclude some people from
a cherished social institution?
Nothing about this legislation will affect anyone else’s
marriage. Husbands will still call their wives their wife and vice versa. I
will let you all in on a secret, we have all been calling our partners husbands
for years. Normally it is when I am being told off.
I did have a speech prepared, but that speech shot it to
bits. Here is the bona fides on the New Zealand First referendum of the 1990s.
The National Party said no to a bill. That is why we went to a referendum, and
when we went to a referendum, 82 percent of the country said: “No, Winston. We
don’t believe in you any more.” That is what it said. It never went through
caucus. It never went through caucus. And that speech that I heard tonight was
the biggest shyster speech I have ever heard—the biggest shyster speech I have
But I tell you what: that speech tonight is nothing more
than pandering to the 10 percent on either side of this argument. It is nothing
more than pandering to those racist, redneck people who just love to get on the
I want to say that I have been appalled with some of the
behaviour of those for the bill and against the bill, because I for one do not
think that those who are against the bill are homophobic just because they are voting
against it. It is their right to vote against it, and I will back my colleagues
who vote against it all the way. I just do not agree with them.
If it does belong to the Church, as I have been told by so
many people on the email, then why do we have legislation outlining who can and
who cannot? If there was no legislation, I would back the Church 100 percent.
But it is not theirs. It actually belongs to the Government. It actually
belongs to this Parliament. It is a creature now of Parliament. It is not a
creature any more of either the Bible or the Church.
I want to acknowledge Chris Auchinvole and Paul Hutchison.
They have shown us in this debate the true power of conscience. When Paul said:
“I … cannot construct a strong enough intellectual, moral, health, or …
spiritual argument against it.”, he struck a chord with so many New Zealanders,
because he showed us openness and he showed us compassion for people. Our
Parliament can be very proud that this vote is actually less about political
divides but more about religious and generational divides.
I remember travelling to Auckland’s North Shore to protest
against one of our opponents, Pastor Richard Flynn, who called publicly for
homosexuals like me to be put to death. Over the years I have campaigned hard
for the right of our communities not to be outsiders anymore and to assume a
full place in New Zealand society. With every new reform, the same group uses
the same strategy, raising fears of terrible consequences that always fail to
materialise. There would be few New Zealanders today who would support
re-criminalising sex between men. The cost of being outsiders is enormous. The
stigma associated with our “inferior” status is associated with substantially
higher rates of suicide, depression, HIV risk, violence, and other risks to our
health and well-being.
Their problem with this bill is that they believe that we
gay and lesbian people are morally inferior. They do not want to include us as
full participants in New Zealand society. They recognise correctly what full
legal equality—this signal—means, and they do not like it. That is why we have
seen people with placards declaring that gay people are mentally ill and less
than human. That is why we have seen Family First’s campaign, firstly, of fear
and misinformation and, latterly, of stand-over tactics and blackmail. That is
why we have seen Catholic Action, just like Richard Flynn, writing to all MPs
and telling us that homosexuals are worthy of death and then describing in
great detail the eternal agony we should expect to experience in hell. They
have tried to attract more people to their cause by scaring people with
imaginary consequences—people will marry their pets, ministers will be thrown
in prison, and people will not be able to call each other husband and wife
anymore! Just like every time before, these fears will not be realised. The
consequences of this bill will be that same-sex couples will marry. Transsexual
people will no longer have to divorce. Prejudice and violence will be undermined.
The privilege we have to be in this House is counterbalanced
by the need to stand up and be counted. I am one of a handful of members who
was here in the very early days of these debates. After three decades and 10
Parliaments, I have had time to reflect—to reflect on what I said and to
reflect on what I did. If I knew then what I have since learnt, I would have
acted differently. I see this as a debate more about human rights, predicated
on the basis that we are all entitled to live our lives to the fullest extent
of human happiness, while respecting the rights and beliefs of others. I
believe all New Zealanders should be free to pursue their own happiness.
Te Ururoa Flavell
In 1888 the Supreme Court of New Zealand made a decision that has been
described as “doubtful legally and deplorable socially”. That doubtful
and deplorable decision was to reject the customary marriages that had
existed mai rānō, and to assume that the marriage law of England took
precedence. In fact, the colonial law from another land was considered
of such importance that the children of Māori customary marriages were
then described as “illegitimate”,
So when opponents of this bill criticise a change to the
definition of marriage as contravening our sacred traditions, I would have to
say “Whose traditions are we talking about?”
A tradition is a convention, a belief, or a behaviour that
stands the test of time. A tradition is the institutional memory of a society.
It is not to be cast off or cast away quickly or easily, because it is the
touchstone of a value that perhaps younger minds may not fully understand, yet
enter into, because it is there. Traditions are what we use to guide people, I
believe, into the things of life that have been proven to work.
I know there are strong religious veins in the Pacific
community, and I respect that and the views that they have, but many young, gay
Pacific Islanders have found this debate difficult. Many have grown up and
maintain strong religious beliefs. They have told me one of the hardest things
in the public debate has been hearing that the God that they worship seems to
see them differently. My God does not. I hope that our community can embrace
that there are many in our families who on a daily basis struggle to be openly
who they are.
At one of my electorate meetings a highly intelligent,
crusty, salt of the earth farmer urged me to vote against the bill, but he
later joked that over the last few generations the sequence of events has gone
like this: in the first instance parents such as himself used to tell their
daughters not to come home with someone from a different religion, then not to
come home with someone from a different race, then definitely not to come home
single and pregnant, and, today, then not to come home with someone from the
same sex, let alone marry them. He encapsulates the fact that society has
evolved enormously within a few generations, just as marriage has been evolving
as a civil and religious institution throughout human history.
As a former specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist,
extremely poignant experiences for me were the rare occurrences where at the
birth of a baby, when the parents instinctively asked: “Is it a boy or a
girl?”, I had been literally unable to tell them. This has been because of
ambiguous genitalia or a unique physical abnormality. It may take some weeks to
fully assess a child, have genetic testing carried out, and assign a sex. Even
that may be later changed. This illustrates the dramatic new knowledge
available in the modern world to better understand the spectrum of physical,
genetic, and social expression of gender and sexuality that was simply not
possible in the past. I ask anyone, on either side of the debate, whether they
would not hope that their newborn could be brought up in a society that is both
tolerant and as caring about their child’s status and aspirations as any other
child’s—a society that is inclusive, fair, and committed to respecting one another.
In the first reading of this bill I said that despite trying
hard, I could not construct a strong enough intellectual, moral, health, or
even spiritual reason to vote against it. I am now quite convinced that, at the
end of the day, the strength of any human union is about love, tolerance,
giving, forgiving, sharing, inclusiveness, commitment, and fairness
irrespective of gender. These are universal qualities that have no boundaries.
We have faced many issues of conscience in our nation’s
relatively short history, and I think we have grown stronger by facing them
together, not always as adversaries but as fellow members of a small and
empathetic nation that often gives fine examples to the rest of the world.
As an older person I would ask that the younger
generation—epitomised, of course, in my colleague Nikki Kaye—show some patience
and consideration for those of my generation who will need time to adjust to a
change that will be very, very new to us. By the same token we cannot move
forward as a nation if we older ones ignore or reject the heartfelt pleas for
respect by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and the
younger brigade. We need their acceptance as they are entitled to our
The Marriage Act has since 1955 said that celebrants can do
that, presumably to protect celebrants from being forced to marry heterosexual
couples of different religions or—heaven forbid—marry somebody who was
And although I respect the beliefs of those who oppose the
bill on religious grounds, I strongly believe that although it is the role of
the State to protect freedom of religious expression—and this bill reaffirms
that—it is not the role of the State to uphold one group’s religious beliefs
This debate is not about special rights for some; it is, in
fact, the very opposite. It is about acknowledging that something that used to
be seen as so scary, immoral, and different that my mother felt compelled to be
an active member of a group called HUG—Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays—is, in
fact, completely normal.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people
will not be any better or worse at marriage than us straights. They will face
the same challenges, the highs and lows, the successes, and the failures.
My late grandmother always had a wonderfully uncomplicated
approach to life. At one point she became quite taken with Brendan, the partner
of one of my best friends from high school, Peter. She told me that she would
not be at all disappointed if Brendan were to become her grandson-in-law. I
said to her “But, Grandma, he’s gay.”, to which she responded “Well, your
grandfather wasn’t the easiest person to live with, but you make marriage
The full video of the speeches can be found on the ParliamentTV YouTube channel.
And the full transcript of the reading.