It the heart of many of today's pro-bill submissions were claims that discriminatory laws, exemplified by the Marriage Act denying same sex couples the right to legally marry, and the demeaning of gay people by religious groups, fuel ongoing homophobia with sometimes tragic personal results for glbti people. Nearly all of the submissions against allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in the same way as heterosexuals can, were from deeply religous organisations and individuals.
MacBride-Stewart urged the committee members and their fellow MPs to pass the bill into law. "Allowing marriage sends out a broader message of equality and acceptance," he said.
He and his partner, Robert Sykes, who also spoke, said they agonised over whether or not to bring their children to the hearing. A number of submitters, particularly lesbians, brought their infants to demonstrate that gay people have children who need the protection of having the law and society fully validate their parents' relationships. But Sykes and MacBride-Stewart did not bring their children, both of whom are older than infants, saying they did not want them to be in an environment where their parents' relationship was being put on the line.
Another deeply emotional story was told by Phil Evans who told the hearing that ever since he realised he was not heterosexual "I was forced to live a lie... for my whole life." Denied the right to get married as his heterosexual peers can, "I even told myself I did not want to get married or have children... but I do," he sobbed. "I want to live in a society where everyone is accepted for who they are. It should have happened a long time ago... and it would have but for a few selfish people... it is those selfish, ignorant people who have forced me to have to come here," he charged.
While professing, as did almost all others opposing gay equality, to love their 'glbti brothers and sisters,' under questioning from committee member Moana Mackey the Fallentines agreed that they believed the NZ government should actively legislate exactly what a family could or could not be. In their view that state-approved family would only be based on "both a mother and a father."
Gay documentarian and Auckland community stalwart Stephen Oates struggled to control his feelings as he related the physical bullying and emotional torment he experienced at school when he was targeted as being different from his peers. "The youth of New Zealand know subconsciously that glbt people aren't treated equally," he said.
Oates also recounted that in his years as a phone counselor dealing with troubled young gay people "every single person who had been kicked out of their home came from a Christian background. "If this bill does not pass you will be reinforcing bullying and legitimising discrimination," he said.
Committee chair Ruth Dyson and her fellow MPs regularly reassured those struggling through their feelings that their stories were important to the select committee process and lauded their courage in coming forward to tell them. "We understand that this is probably the hardest thing you have ever done in your life," Dyson told several submitters.