Monday, August 22, 2011

Legalise Love

Could this be the beginning of the final chapter in the struggle for the equality of the gay and lesbian people of New Zealand? That goal at the very least has been brought a step closer by the launch of a new campaign, Legalise Love, which is “working towards two things: marriage equality and adoption rights for non-heterosexual New Zealanders.” Their launch video is above.

In 2004, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Civil Union Act, which gave gay and lesbian New Zealanders separate-but-equal marriage-like legal recognition of their relationships. Of course, by definition, civil unions are separate and unequal because only heterosexuals can marry: Gay and lesbian New Zealanders are forbidden the right to marry.

Similarly, an anomaly exists in adoption law in that a gay single person can adopt, but a same-sex couple cannot. As I understand it, only married couples and single people can adopt, so heterosexuals in a civil union or de facto relationship would similarly be prevented from adopting. If restricting adoption by couples only to those who are married was Parliament’s intent—and there’s no evidence that it is—then allowing same-sex couples to marry would eliminate the anomaly. Changing adoption law to allow people in civil unions to adopt only perpetuates the separate and unequal status quo. Leaving things as they are completely ignores what’s in the best interests of the child, particularly by complicating legal guardianship.

This new campaign is beginning with an online petition (which I hope is a way of creating a list of supporters, since online petitions are pretty worthless), and they’re planning on a March For Equality, heading to Parliament on October 20.

I think it’s odd—not necessarily bad or good—that they refer to “non-heterosexual New Zealanders”. I’m old school, and prefer to talk about what we are, not what we are not; I don’t know what that word usage gains anybody. Also, their site’s subtitle is “Proudly Promoting Equal Rights for Queer New Zealanders”. I realise I’m increasingly a curmudgeon on this, but I hate the word “queer”; it’s not the negative connotations/history of the word, but rather that I find it reductivist, assuming that gay men and lesbian women must subsume their separate identities in order to include folks who are neither, but connected in some way. Clearly that’s a topic in itself.

Semantic issues aside, I wish them well. New Zealand needs a group to push, prod and cajole the two main political parties, National and Labour, neither of which supports marriage equality. Labour seems supportive of adoption reform, and many National MPs do, too (though the party certainly won’t push it). The Greens, of course, support both.

The most important thing about Legalise Love is that it’s doing something. Most gay and lesbian New Zealanders are sitting on the sidelines waiting for a government that will finally enact full equality—someday. But power never yields anything without pressure, and that’s equally true for Labour and National governments. So, this is an important step.

And, I like their video.


Roger Owen Green said...

I suppose non-heterosexual (7 syllables) is shorter than LGBT spoken out (11 syllables).

WV: multi (as in many syllables)

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

That's the best explanation so far…