Wednesday, November 06, 2013

234 people find marriage equality in NZ

New data from Statistics New Zealand reports that 117 same-gender couples were married in the quarter ending September 30, 2013. Marriage equality became law on August 19, so the stats cover only half the quarter.

61 female couples were married in the quarter, as were 56 male couples. 77 couples were New Zealand resident, and 40 were overseas residents.

In the same quarter, 11 female couples and 12 male couples had civil unions (as did 10 opposite-gender couples). Of the same-gender couples, 16 were New Zealand resident and 7 were not. For some reason, Statistics New Zealand doesn’t report statistics on residency of opposite-gender civil union couples.

What do these statistic tell us? Well, not much, really. It’s only six weeks worth of data, after all. However, one thing that did strike me about the data so far is that 25 of the 61 female couples—about 41%—were transfers from civil unions. Similarly, 22 of 56 male couples (just over 39%) were transfers from civil unions. That’s a pretty high percentage of same-gender civil union couples who actually wanted to be married.

Naturally, that’s not how our adversaries on the religious far right see it. My old pal Bob McCoskrie headlined his post on the statistics, “Just 77 same-sex marriages. 33 couples agree there’s no discrimination with civil unions”. Bob was being impish there, even a bit churlish. Since he has a well-deserved reputation for not understanding statistics, it’s worth fact-checking and correcting his spin.

Bob says it’s “just 77” couples because he removes the 40 from overseas. So, what he was really talking about was 77 New Zealand couples; he must think it sounds better for him politically to make the number as small as possible. He goes on to compare the roughly one third of same-gender marriages being among foreigners to the roughly 10% of opposite gender couples, as if that means something. Actually, it does, as Bob well knows: New Zealand is the ONLY country in the Asia Pacific region with marriage equality, so we should expect that marriages of foreign same-gender couples will remain a high percentage, at least until Australia adopts marriage equality some day. Opposite-gender couples can get married wherever they want to, and few of them presently choose New Zealand to do so.

Bob also erroneously said, “Despite the new marriage laws, 33 same-sex couples still chose civil unions, which have been available since 2005.” In fact, 33 couples chose civil unions, of which only 23 were same-gender couples. We have no information on why this is so: It could be rejection of marriage as an institution, it could be that plans for a civil union were too far advanced to change—in fact there could be many reasons why those couples chose civil unions.

In any case, it's irrelevant. Bob churlishly declared, “33 couples agree there’s no discrimination with civil unions”, but that’s not even remotely true—as he meant it. Those couples have no discrimination ANY MORE. When marriage equality became law, for the first time ever, ALL couples, same-gender and opposite-gender, could pick the relationship status that best fit their needs, ideals, etc. Previously, only opposite-gender couples could marry—same-gender couples were forbidden to do so. Opposite-gender couples could choose civil unions and move from civil union to marriage or vice versa. However, same-gender couples could choose only civil unions. THAT was the discrimination.

So, the reality is that 117 same-gender couples chose the responsibilities and obligations of marriage, just as their heterosexual friends, family and acquaintances have always been able to do. The fact that 33 couples—a third opposite-gender—chose civil unions means that they, too, were embracing the newfound equality under law, because all of them could choose either civil unions or marriage.

In the months ahead, Bob and his far right comrades will continue to attack and belittle marriage equality (I can easily imagine the mocking press releases they’ll issue when the first divorce of a same-gender couple is granted). They will continue to put the word marriage into quotation marks when referring to the marriages of same-gender couples, despite it being the law of New Zealand. Such churlishness is in their nature, it would seem.

Most of the time, I simply laugh at the obvious desperation of our adversaries. Because they’re mean-spirited more often than not, they invite mockery. Generally I avoid that, preferring to just correct their misinformation. But the headline of this post is actually gently mocking my pal Bob: He used the lowest possible number to talk about gay people marrying, and I used the highest possible number—117 couples means 234 individuals.

However, there’s a strong truth in my headline that’s missing from Bob’s lame attempt at spin: 234 PEOPLE have experienced true equality and been married. Those people, those 117 couples, are finally equal to opposite-gender married couples, but not just because they were married, but because they had the same, equal choice on whether or not to marry. The same is true, actually, of the 23 same-gender couples who chose civil unions.

So, to correct Bob’s spin, the reality is that 140 couples—280 people—experienced full equality. To me, that is always something worth celebrating.

Source of statistics on marriages and civil unions: Statistics New Zealand (spreadsheets of the data are available for download from their site).


rogerogreen said...

NOTHING about Illinois? Really? Your vast audience awaits!

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Yes, I know, but I'm swamped with work right now (I know it's shocking that I'm not actually paid to blog…). So, I'm afraid that the three of you will have to wait a little while, maybe one more day.