Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Worth quoting: Louisa Wall

Louisa Wall
Louisa Wall, the sponsor of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, made a submission to the Government Administration Select Committee of Parliament, the select committee that is considering the Bill. In her submission, she countered much of the mythology and misinformation promoted by rightwing religious opponents of the Bill, and did so effectively. This is her summation:
This Bill does not give any group of people greater rights. All it seeks to do is to provide the same rights, responsibilities and privileges of marriage to two people who choose this form of expression of their relationship. This 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. Student referenda conducted in 2012 at Otago and Victoria Universities resulted in 84% support for marriage equality. It is a generational issue and that evolution has been reflected in the number of countries that have achieved some form of recognition of non-heterosexual relationships and have then moved to marriage equality. The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden are all examples of that development.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that extending the same rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons as those enjoyed by everyone else will result in the principles of equality and non-discrimination becoming a reality for millions of LGBT people around the world.

Marriage equality is a step along that path. One that 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. A 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. Such an attitude is bigoted and discriminatory and just plain unfair. Imagine 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. For 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. Whether you are young and starting out on your life's journey or have been dealing with this prejudice all your life, this rejection of such an integral part of yourself is unacceptable and intolerable and can be destructive.

Finally, one's sexual self-determination should not limit in any form one's rights of citizenship. The basic principle of citizenship is that it is a right of descent and birth and in a modern democracy it is about the relationship people have with the land they call home. To limit rights of citizenship based on non-heterosexuality status contradicts the fundamental rights of citizenship conferred by descent, dwelling and birth and in a modern democratic society all citizens must be entitled to all rights extended by the State. To perpetuate inequality and discrimination once it is exposed is unjustified and irrational. If we do not act, we condone it and in Aotearoa New Zealand it is time for appropriate legislative action to realise marriage equality for all of our citizens.
The complete text or her submission, which also includes a lot of background information, is available for download from the Select Committee (or you can click here to download the PDF directly). The committee will have more submissions available for download, too. The Select Committee will hear oral submissions before the end of this year, and their report is due to the House by February 28, 2013, after which the Bill will face its Second Reading.

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