New Zealandâ€™s first civil unioned couple, Des Smith and John Jolliff, have written to the select committee considering the marriage equality bill expressing their disgust at the â€śinsultingâ€ť question National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi levelled at them.
Dear Ruth (Select Committee Chair Ruth Dyson),
However we neither expected nor appreciated the insulting question from Mr Bakshi as to who would play the husband and who the wife should we gain the right to marriage. To be frank it was offensive although it would have been inappropriate for us to express anger at the time. Des parried the question by saying that we did not role play and light-heartedly referred to John doing most of the cooking. Fortunately this raised a laugh. We do feel however that now is the time to express our discomfort.
Mr Bakshi is of course entitled to his views on the Bill and his opposition to it has been evident in the public arena. For his prejudices, or perhaps his ignorance, to surface during a Select Committee hearing is we believe unacceptable. This is particularly so in the light of your comments before each submission for the proceedings to continue with respect on all sides.
It would be possible to conjure up several words to describe the nature of his questioning eg intrusive, discourteous, offensive, silly, unwarranted, inappropriate etc. We will not however go beyond offensive because it seems to us he simply lacks the ability to understand the nature of long term same-sex relationships or maybe even the term "marriage". (The Oxford dictionary definition of marriage includes "an intimate union"). Certainly he seems to have no awareness of the respected studies on human sexuality mentioned by Des in his submission. As such his competence to remain on the committee while it continues to debate this particular Bill must be questioned. While he is there we hope that no other supporters of the Bill are treated by him as we were. Are there facilities for on the job training open to him?
Finally we feel obliged to mention that we are very perturbed to read that the Prime Minister when approached by journalists about Mr Bakshi's line of questioning is quoted as saying "He is just doing his job" This clearly endorses Mr Bakshi's actions and we fear that it will give him the green light to treat others discourteously too.
Des Smith and John Jolliff