The author of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has delivered the first submission on it to the Government Administration Select Committee at Parliament.
‚ÄúAt the outset, much of the opposition has been motivated by a basic premise that some people consider homosexuality is unacceptable or a sin,‚ÄĚ she said.
‚ÄúThere have been attempts to revisit issues that have already been determined. In other words some opponents need to be honest and declare that what they truly seek is to repeal the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986.‚ÄĚ
Wall said this is shown by the number of vocal opponents who argue from a first principle position of homosexuality being a sin and homosexuals being sinners, and the position of switching to being against civil unions to now supporting them in order to oppose marriage equality.
She added the decriminalisation of homosexuality between men in 1986 and the extension of the grounds of unlawful discrimination to sexual orientation in 1993 are democratically agreed and are necessary steps that have evolved in New Zealand from the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
‚ÄúA number of people have raised the fact that non-heterosexual couples should be satisfied with civil unions and not be able to enter the institution of marriage because there is the choice to formalise relationships with civil unions. There is no logical or rational base on which a heterosexual couple should be able to choose to commit to each other by way of civil union or marriage and non-heterosexual couples are unable to exercise that same choice,‚ÄĚ she said in her submission.
Wall also touched on those in opposition to the Bill issuing press releases on a regular basis that contain ‚Äúmistruths and misleading information,‚ÄĚ such as claiming Churches will be forced to marry any couple issued with a licence, which she said was ‚Äúplainly wrong‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúhas never been the situation‚ÄĚ as Ministers have always been able to refuse to officiate for whatever reason they want and this would remain unchanged.
She said the opposition also claimed she had personally acknowledged that the Bill would force Churches to perform same-sex marriages in Church halls ‚Äď but the law already prohibits any body or organisation from refusing to offer goods or services to the public on such grounds, and her Bill does nothing to change this.
‚ÄúTo suggest this Bill changes that is disingenuous and is a desperate and deliberate attempt to provoke a response based on misinformation,‚ÄĚ she stated.
Wall also covered what she terms the ‚Äúridiculous ‚Äėslippery slope‚Äô argument that has been raised‚ÄĚ.
‚ÄúThis Bill is about eliminating discrimination and inequality in the civil and social institution of marriage. Polygamy, bigamy, bestiality and incest are criminal offences and will remain so,‚ÄĚ she told the committee.
‚ÄúIt is insulting for people to even raise such issues within the context of a discussion about marriage equality.
‚ÄúSuch arguments are a reflection of the true attitudes of those proposing them as it reflects their attitude toward those who are currently discriminated against, homosexual or non-heterosexual New Zealanders, by the current administration of our Marriage Act 1955.
‚ÄúThat is a discussion we have already had - homosexual New Zealanders are able to live free, open and honest lives and this reality underpins my Bill. Marriage is the fundamental unit in society as a social and civil institution. It is one that many couples contemplate, the ideal or fairy tale to find one's life partner and it is the choice to enter that institution that my Bill seeks.‚ÄĚ
Wall concludes that her Bill does not give any group of people greater rights and adds she believes it‚Äôs a generational issue.
‚ÄúThis is a concept well understood by younger people - those who are the future of our country and who this Bill is particularly relevant to, given the choices they will make as they progress through their lives in forming and founding their own families.‚ÄĚ
Wall says marriage equality will send a strong message that as a society we value all people, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity and that we pay more than lip service to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
‚ÄúA number of vocal opponents have clearly articulated the message that if you are homosexual or transgender you are not entitled to the same rights that they have,‚ÄĚ she said.
‚ÄúSuch an attitude is bigoted and discriminatory and just plain unfair.
‚ÄúImagine how a homosexual or transgender person feels -
being told that they are not entitled to all that is available to other people,
that they do not deserve to have the same rights,‚ÄĚ Wall said.
‚ÄúFor many coping with their sexuality and the challenges that brings is difficult enough - without the overt prejudice that is clearly directed towards them often in the name of religion or culture.‚ÄĚ
You can read Louisa Wall‚Äôs full submission here.