Thursday, July 26, 2012

The time has come

I’ve been writing about marriage equality for ages, and about its adoption in New Zealand with increasing frequency. We’re now—finally—at decision point.

Today, Labour MP Louisa Wall’s Private Member’s Bill to establish marriage equality (PDF here) was drawn in the ballot and will be introduced into Parliament. This will be huge.

Prime Minister John Key previously indicated that he would support such a bill to committee stage, but made no commitments beyond that. The NZ Labour Party, the official Opposition, will treat the matter as a conscience vote, however, the Green Party will vote as a bloc in favour of marriage equality.

National hasn’t yet announced what it will do, but odds are it will allow a conscience vote (to vote as a bloc against it would be a risky move as their unpopularity grows). The one MP of the Act “Party”, who has gained notoriety for his homophobia in the past, will almost certainly vote against it.

A “conscience vote”, called a “free vote” in other countries, means MPs are free to vote however they want to; normally, MPs have to vote as their party dictates. This is always done with “controversial” matters as a way of avoiding forcing MPs to vote against their deeply held personal beliefs.

So, conscience votes can be instructive about the true nature of MPs. There will be MPs in both Labour and National voting for marriage equality and against it. The list of Labour MPs voting against it will be short, I deeply hope, but I expect it to include Damien O’Connor and Ross Robertson, who both voted against Civil Unions.

On the National side, opponents will vastly outnumber supporters, but we know, for example, that Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye will vote for marriage equality—if she didn’t, she’d be booted out in the next election. But I expect National Party supporters will be rare.

I’d like to note that both Young National and Young Labour—the youth wings of their respective parties, and a starting point for future MPs—both support marriage equality. Maybe they can show the oldies a thing or two about the right thing to do, and even about working together for the good of us all. I hope they’re up to the challenge.

Much needs to happen between now and when the first vote is actually held (let alone the final vote). I’ll contact my own (National Party) Member of Parliament, and I will fully report on that on this blog. I have absolutely no idea where he stands or how he’ll vote. When I do, you will, too.

In the meantime, the fight is on, and I’ll have MUCH more to say about it!


Unknown said...

Hooray! Let's hope NZ leads the way and shows the world how it's done :)

Arthur Schenck said...

I'm reasonably optimistic! New Zealand has changed, even if far too many of our politicians haven't.