Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Like a whole other country

It’s often difficult for Americans to accept that some things are, in fact, a whole lot better in other countries. For example, while America continues to battle over whether states can offer any kind of official recognition to same-sex couples, other countries just get on with it. Some, like Canada, enact marriage equality, while others, like New Zealand, enact Civil Unions with the rights and privileges of marriage.

But would any American journalist ever ask President Obama who he’d “turn gay” for? Would they ask, well, whoever the real head of the Republicans is? Australian TV and radio host Rove McManus has made asking that question of celebrities and politicians a common bit on his TV chat show. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ducked the question—twice. Not New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

Asked by NZ gay publication express, Key said he’d “turn gay” for Brad Pitt. Said the Prime Minister, "Now he's a bit older, [Brad’s] a bit of a looker. I was going to say Tom Cruise, but someone of his age shouldn't look that young." Okay, both Pitt and Cruise may be obvious choices for a straight man to mention, but full props for playing along with the question. Kevin Rudd could learn a thing or two from John Key on this.

Key was asked about gay marriage in New Zealand, but he said he felt there was no need to go beyond the existing civil unions law. However, he does not oppose gay couples adopting children—something that’s currently not legal (a single gay person can adopt, but a same-sex couple cannot).

As it happens, new statistics on marriage in New Zealand reveal that a third of all NZ marriages end in divorce. Even so, marriages overall were up slightly, though still only a third of their peak in 1971.

There were 327 civil unions among New Zealand residents last year, of whom 256—roughly 78 percent—were same sex: 111 male, 145 female. 71 were opposite-sex civil unions. Adding the 78 civil unions registered to overseas residents, the total number of civil unions last year was 405. Up to the end of last year, only 8 civil unions were dissolved.

In New Zealand, civil unions are the legal equivalent of marriage, but I’m convinced that sooner rather than later New Zealand will have marriage equality for people who want marriage. Because of the legal equality of NZ civil unions, I’m not all that concerned that the prime minister doesn’t want to enact marriage equality by name. Actually, I’m encouraged that he supports equality in adoption law.

I’m not a big fan of the National Party’s caucus in Parliament. There are, in fact, a lot of them I can’t stand. And yet, I kinda like their leader, John Key. This shows part of the reason why that is—and another reason why New Zealand is very, very different from America.

1 comment:

d said...

To me, the biggest difference is that opposite-sex couples can be 'married' under the civil union laws, and that quite a few do. That makes it seems just a bit more on equal footing than unions offered in the US.