Should we allow same sex marriage? NZ Herald Online

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Jun 22, 2011 No Comments ›› Jacinda Ardern

In 2004, I paid the tiniest of prices to support a really important issue; $20 to be precise. That’s how much one thousand people paid to have their names included in a full page ad in a major New Zealand newspaper supporting the civil union bill. I was just one person in what turned out to be a significant movement for change.

I remember the debate around civil unions and the strength of feeling on both sides. I stood amongst the group of people who turned out to counter the Destiny Church rally, where protesters screamed ‘enough is enough.’ But for me, the issue was clear. It was all about fairness and it was all about choice.

It still surprises me when I hear people catergorise civil unions as a nanny state change made by Labour. I don’t think that could be further from the truth. For me, the state has no right to determine who people should and shouldn’t be allowed to form relationships with but, until 2005, we did. If a person was in a same sex relationships and their partner fell seriously ill, they could be denied the basic right to see them. Property laws were different, along with a whole raft of things couples take for granted. That wasn’t right, nor was it fair.

We may have made a huge step forward when Labour introduced civil unions, but we shouldn’t take its place in law for granted. It was only passed by 5 votes and when John Key, who voted against the bill, was asked whether he would do the same again, he refused to answer. In fact, when interviewed by Steven Oates of Ponsonby Radio at the Big Gay Out, the best he could muster was at least his Government hadn’t “rolled back gay rights.”

But none of that means we can’t keep moving forward.

Votes in Parliament on issues like civil unions, prostitution and alcohol are generally conscience votes so, just as my vote is my own, so are my views. But if a vote came up tomorrow on the question of gay marriage, I would give my support because of the same principle – fairness.

I don’t believe it’s for me, the state, or anyone else to determine how a couple wants their relationship recognised; that is for them to decide. But it is absolutely our job to remove the barriers that stop people from having the same choices as everyone else and to ensure we are all treated equally and fairly by the law.

It is equally up to each religious institution to determine their views on this question also. Some would welcome the chance to offer gay marriage, some will not. But again, I don’t believe I should be the ultimate arbiter of that decision or stand in the way of allowing it to be made.

I am amongst the lucky. I have never experienced the discrimination and intolerance that members of New Zealand’s gay community have or been subject to the inequality in our laws. My price was a mere $20 and I would pay it many times over for the sake of a few more people having what I have- fairness, and choice.

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