NZ’s marriage equality bill - full coverage and reaction

by Toby Manhire / 19 August, 2013
Legislation to enable same-sex marriage in New Zealand wins 77-44 in third reading: the debate and the aftermath, with video.

Louisa Wall, Tau Henare and Metiria Turei watch as the public gallery sings "Pōkarekare ana".

For other parts of the marriage equality bill longblog - full coverage click here.


Monday April 15, 2pm: With the third reading just two days away, a quick roundup from the last week or so:

• With support for the bill suggesting its progress is just about unstoppable, opponents will have been chuffed, at least, to see the front page of the Weekend Herald on Saturday, with its headline “No more brides, grooms” – something of an oversell, arguably, of Simon Collins’s piece beneath, which concerns specifically the use of terms on forms, but certainly attention-grabbing.

Interestingly, the online version of the piece sports the rather more sober headline “Gender-neutral terms possible for marriage forms”.


• Bob McCroskie has blogged saying that the Herald report vindicates Family First’s arguments.

• 3 News previews Wednesday’s vote, with a prediction from the Greens’ Kevin Hague that there will be a wave of “incredibly emotional weddings” following the legislation coming into force (which would be four months after the bill gets signed by the governor-general).

• With the public gallery fully booked, supporters of the bill have attempted to have a “spill-over room” provided at parliament for viewing; the speaker has denied the request.

• Gay NZ has details of the various bars and other venues that will be broadcasting the final reading of the bill on Wednesday night.

• The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a complaint against the Family First flyer (see below) citing provision for “robust expression of belief or opinion, irrespective of the message”. Others, meanwhile, have submitted complaints to the ASA about a “marriage pledge” advertisement placed in newspapers over the weekend.

• A Stuff report suggests the new law could deliver an economic windfall, with Australian same-sex couples travelling across the Tasman to tie the knot in New Zealand.

• Churchgoer Colin Jackson has published an email he sent to the national leader of the New Zealand Baptist churches.

Uruguay’s legislators have voted to allow same-sex marriage.


Tuesday April 16, 2pm: On the eve of the third reading, the debate rages earnestly on. The NZ Herald has another for and against square-off.

Sam Clements, last seen in the Herald just over a month ago (see March 4) makes the case to change the law (“It is logically flawed, and a nonsensical argument to suggest the redefinition of marriage by the state is in effect an attempt ‘to abolish it’”).

Professor Rex Ahdar of the Faculty of Law, University of Otago (last seen at Pundit, see March 14), argues otherwise (“To redefine marriage, to allow same-sex partners, is to abolish it ... it eviscerates it and substitutes a new concept.”)

Elsewhere in the Herald comes news that the words “bride” and “groom” won’t be removed from official marriage forms after all (see April 15).

One of the bill’s leading proponents, the Greens’ Kevin Hague, has been live-chatting on the Herald site today – read it here.

The Protect Marriage campaign group has sent a last-ditch email to supporters exhorting them to telephone MPs, for “tomorrow is the day that they will mess up marriage”.

And here’s a report previewing the likely law change from Agence France Presse.

Wednesday April 17, 9.30am: With Louisa Wall’s bill just hours away from its final parliamentary hurdle, an email has been sent to MPs who have supported it. According to, it reads:

Come together, hold assembly, you shameless 77 - before you are driven out of office, before the burning anger of the voters overtake you, for the day of reckoning will come for sure, you hollow 77, whitewashed sepulchres.

No one wants to be a whitewashed sepulchre, granted, but it seems unlikely such stern words will be enough to sway things tonight.

Elsewhere at Stuff is the preview “Gay couples counting down to full equality”.

And from the Press, "NZ set to be 13th nation to allow gay marriage".

The NZ Herald has “Gay marriage: Parliament set to make history”, as well as news that Louisa Wall herself has no plans to marry her long-term partner, Prue. The couple have a civil union.

And the paper issues forth once more from the editorial pulpit. Last time it did so (see August 29) it was equivocal. Today it's clearer:

The gay community's fight for the right to marry pays tribute, in its way, to the inherent value of the institution.

Editorialising at the end of his RadioLive breakfast show this morning, Marcus Lush argued that the legislation would be passed and no one would notice the difference – that the doomsayers would be shown to be way off beam. The real losers, he argued, were the churches who opposed the change, and were left appearing out of date and hateful.

For full coverage of the debate tonight check back in later. The third reading is likely to begin just before or after the dinner break, which means just before 6pm or after 7.30pm. You can watch it on Parliament TV, and stream online here. Video of the speeches will be plonked on this page as soon as they’re available.

Wednesday April 17, 5.40pm: The queue is building already outside parliament, with just less than two hours until the deciding debate is likely to begin. This image was tweeted a few minutes ago by Labour MP Jacinda Ardern:

Remember, if you're a fan of the bill, Gay NZ has details of public houses and other locations where you watch - and, probably, celebrate - proceedings this evening. Emma Hart chimes in on the same subject here. I have no information on any events being staged by opponents of the bill, but I'll include details if you ping me a tweet at @listenerlive.
Third reading, April 17

7.30pm: We're about to get under way. The TV coverage I'm watching has just sprung into life and there's a hum in the house.

7.40pm: The bill's sponsor, Louisa Wall (Labour, Manurewa), opens the third reading debate.

Wall, with rainbows rolling off her shoulders, begins by noting that the public gallery is full, as it was at the first and second readings. She has only seen similar crowds at the passing of treaty settlement legislation. In both cases the "parties affected are a minority group who've been marginalised".

She adds: "Having parliament recognise and address these injustices matters."

Marriage, says Wall, has historically "been used as a means of oppression".

She notes the importance of international momentum in favour of marriage equality, adding that a number of countries in the pacific continued to criminalise homosexuality.

She says: "This is not about church teachings or philosophy. It never has been. It's about the state excluding people from the institution of marriage."

She reiterates that the bill does not oblige church celebrants to marry people against their wishes, that it does not legalise polygamy, and that it does not alter adoption laws.

Wall rounds off with a number of thanks, to all that have supported the legislation, and finally to her own partner, Prue.

"I'm proud to be a member of this 50th parliament that will continue New Zealand's proud human rights tradition."

Applause. Cheers. The ovation lasts 20 seconds.

7.50pm: Maurice Williamson (National, Pakuranga) has them in the palm of his hand, with plenty of gags, and a good bit of heart.

He ponders the "gay onslaught", promised by a reverend in his electorate should the bill pass. "Sir, we're really struggling to know what the gay onslaught will look like. We don't know whether it will come down the Pakuranga Highway as a series of troops, or whether it will be a gas that flows in over the electorate and blocks us all in."

"All we are doing is allowing two people who love each other to get married," he says, in an attempt to mollify opponents.

He has nothing but disdain, however, for the extreme opponents, such as those who suggested to him he would "burn in hell for eternity" for supporting the bill. He adds: "I found some of the bullying tactics really evil ... I gave up being afraid of bullies when I was at primary school."

One upset constituent, he adds, suggested that the proposed legislation was responsible for the recent drought (so did a Waikato Times letter writer - see March 25). He says, referencing his post earlier on Twitter, "We had the most enormous great big rainbow across my electorate this morning."

"I give you a watertight guaranteed promise: the sun will still shine tomorrow."

He finishes with a quote from the Bible: "Be ye not afraid."


Williamson is a hard act to follow, and Jami-Lee Ross (National, Botany), who is sharing his call, lacks some of the punch.

"I'm voting for love, equality, for freedom," he says.

8pm: Next is Grant Robertson (Labour, Wellington Central). He harks back to Harvey Milk, the pioneering US gay councillor.

The Labour deputy leader then thanks those, including some in the house tonight, who supported the 1986 homosexual law reform bill, which gave so many hope - "gave me hope".

The bill he says is at heart "about family and strengthening family".

And, he says, it's about equality, before introducing a rare partisan element to the debate. It is "a fundamental value for me, and for the Labour party". He goes on to say this same value applies to issues of child poverty, pay, education. The bill is about equality, he says, and that is "at the heart of Labour values".

"I respect the right of people to hold different rights ... Nothing about this legislation will affect anyone else's marriage ... And I'll let you in on a secret, we've all been calling our partners husbands for years - normally it's when I'm getting told off."

"For all the victories ... the victory for families, for fairness, for equality, for inclusion and for love," says Robertson, the real victory will be for the likes of 14-year-old boy in Dunedin - as he had been - who is "wondering how he'll cope".

The legislation in the house tonight "goes some way to fulfilling Harvey Milk's dream", he says, and helps that teenager. "We will give him some hope. Tonight hope as won."


8.10pm: New Zealand First leader Winston Peters (list) restates the argument for a referendum.

The bill hadn't had a fair public hearing, it hadn't been debated ahead of the election. It had "come at us out of the blue". That is why "so many fair-minded Kiwis feel confused".

"Ms Wall, sad to say, wasn't even up front with her own party," he says, saying that it was not run past the whips in the proper manner. There are heckles disputing this. "I have it on the highest authority." says Peters.

"This is about democracy and representation ... Don't say you weren't warned."

Thin applause, but sustained.

8.15pm: Tau Henare (list, National) makes things even livelier. He had a speech prepared, he says, but having heard Peters speak, he's got something else to say. It was "the biggest shyster speech I've ever heard".

Peters asks the Speaker to have Henare's remark withdrawn as unparliamentary. 'Fraid not, says Carter.

Henare continues: if Peters was to decide which issues should go to referendums, "we'd be stuck in the 1880s".

"I feel sad that I was deputy to that leader ... I used to look up to him."

The speech was "pandering to those racist, redneck people who just love to get on the email."

And as for the opponents? "I will back my colleagues who vote against it all the way, Mr Speaker, I just don't agree with them. And they're going to lose tonight."

Disappointingly, perhaps, he then returns to his prepared material, and is the third person already this evening to suggest that "the sky will not fall in".


8.20pm: Nikki Kaye (National, Auckland Central) says the bill means that gay New Zealanders "can have the same dream that other New Zealanders have".

"I support this bill because it's absolutely the right thing for this country. I support those in conservative electorates who are also standing up in supporting this bill because it's the right thing to do." Those members had "shown the true power of conscience".

"This vote is less about political divides, and more about religious and generational divides."

8.30pm: Kevin Hague (list, Greens) adds further personal flavour to the debate, acknowledging the presence of his longterm male partner and his son.

"Over the years I've campaigned hard for our communities not to be outsiders any more," he says. On every occasion, the opponents issue the same threats and scaremongering.

"The stigma associated with our 'inferior' status", he says, has awful consequences in suicide rates, illness, and more.

"This bill is about so much more than equality under the law ... It is about saying these lives matter," says Hague, who quotes passages from submissions.

"There is no doubt that New Zealand has grown up over the last 27 years ... but as the debate has worn on we have seen the re-emergence of a hard core whose opposition to the bill" is built on hatred, says Hague.

"There is no longer any room for nuance and middle ground. What history will record is whether you voted for inclusivity ... or against ... Please be brave tonight so that you can be proud of your vote later ... Stand with justice, fairness and love."


8.40pm: "I love my job, but every now and then it really rocks," says Maryan Street (list, Labour). "And this is one of them." It was one of those moments when you could be certain, she says, that "you're doing something right, something really life-changing".

"I'm gay. I don't want to get married ... But I don't want to be told I can't get married because the state won't allow me to get married," she says.

The bill is "about creating a safe and tolerant society, that is safe for our young people to grow up in ... our actions here must always be about the future".

Street had promised her daughter when she entered parliament that she would do things to improve people's lives, she says. This is it.

And we get the fourth assurance that the sky will not fall in. They all seem so certain.

8.45pm: Here's John Banks (ACT, Epsom). Remember, he voted against the homosexual law reform bill in 1986, decrying a "sad and sickening day".

He acknowledges that: "I'm one of the handful of members who was here in the very early days of these debates ... I've had time to reflect, to reflect on what I've said, and to reflect on what I did," he says.

It was about "human rights and respect", he says. And his party was about providing New Zealanders with "the freedom to pursue their own happiness".

8.50pm: Te Ururoa Flavell (Waiariki, Maori Party) thanks "Hone Banks" for splitting the call with him.

He says Maori history is more complex than many imagine, and there are examples of tolerating non-conventional marriages. He asks those who object on traditional grounds "whose traditions are they talking about"?

The bill is about changing things for "young people in such agony about the way they live their lives that suicide becomes the only option". This should be a "day in which history is made".

We are yet to hear anyone speak against the bill apart from Peters, whose opposition is ostensibly because of the lack of a referendum.

8.55pm: Well this is odd, from Chester Borrows (Whanganui, National).

I'm pretty sure he said he'd changed his vote. Maybe he said he'd changed his view. Anyhow, he received a cheer for what appeared to be an announcement he'd be swapping sides.

"It is right that people who love another should be able to commit to one another," he says.

And then he goes on to say that he does not believe the nature of marriage has been sufficiently debated, and he'll be voting against after all.

9.00pm: Jonathan Young (New Plymouth, National) says "it's not as clear as many people think ... I believe our society is more divided that this house is on this issue."

No chance he'll be changing his vote. He salutes his colleagues for the tenor of the debate, says he backs civil unions, but marriage should not be altered as an institution. It's not about love, because love can't be legislated, he says.

9.05pm: Kris Faafoi (Labour, Mana) begins by saying "there's more than one Pacific position in this house", adding that his position is not meant with any disrespect to elders in his community. But many younger members of that community deserved respect too, and deserved pride.

9.10pm: Mojo Mathers (Greens, list) begins: "Your vote will mean a great deal to me, to my family, and to thousands of other New Zealanders."

"My family has been fortunate to have a beautiful rainbow thread that has woven itself in and out of most of the generations on both sides."

She describes the delight at seeing her daughter, full of pride, attend a school ball with her girlfriend. The change that allowed that to happen continued in the current legislation.

"For me this is something to be embraced with open arms ... Every member in this house who votes for this bill tonight, will be voting for love, tolerance and acceptance."

9.15pm: Paul Hutchison (National, Hunua) surprised just about everyone in the first reading that contrary to reports he would in fact be voting for the legislation. Now he's changed his mind. No, kidding, kidding. He salutes Louisa Wall, and cheers the chance to exercise conscience.

"With this legislation, significant safguards are in place", he says, to ensure celebrants, especially clergy, are free to exercise their own conscience, and refuse to marry when they choose.

He then talks about his work as a doctor, and the "spectrum of ... expression of gender and sexuality". Shouldn't all parents wish for a society "tolerant and caring of their child's status and aspirations"?


9.20pm: Chris Auchinvole (National, West Coast Tasman), celebrity MP (see first reading) takes the call.

"I have the faith that we can seize the opportunity to have discussions about the issues raised in this bill in our homes, in our churches ... It is just the beginning of a change process."

He urges younger colleagues, with a nod to Nikki Kaye, to show some patience with his own generation, for whom change can be hard. But that respect should go both ways and to the LGBT community - "we need their acceptance as they are entitled to our acceptance".

He calls on fellow believers to "pick up the banner of Christian love - sometimes tarnished [and] to make the banner resplendent".

Felix Marwick, seasoned politics watcher at Newstalk ZB, tweets:

I must admit it is kind of strange to see Parliament so courteous and respectful tonight. One could almost get used to it

9.25pm: Ruth Dyson (Labour, Port Hills) again salutes those who submitted to the select committee.

She attacks the "gross misrepresentations" of the bill, particularly around the removal of husband-wife labels and similar, condemning them as "immoral", while congratulating those who were "honest" about their opposition.

9.30pm: Moana Mackey (Labour, list) is rattling through her speech to squeeze it in to five minutes so that a vote can be held. She thanks all of those who have shared their views. Or not all - not, for example, the correspondent who called her an "evil god-hating reprobate".

She observes that many of those who opposed civil unions in the house now seem to think them ideal and sufficient.

"I'm now going to sit down so that we can take a vote and pass this bill into law."

And we're off into a personal vote.


9.40pm: The New Zealand house of representatives has voted in the third and final reading in favour of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) bill by 77 to 44.

Cheers break out, flowers, embraces, followed by a waiata, "Pōkarekare ana".

Then more cheers, for at least two minutes.

Here it is:

The bill will now get its royal assent, in the form of the governor general's signature. It will come into effect four months later.

Two members have reportedly changed their votes, balancing one another out, National's David Bennett (no to yes) and Labour's Rino Tirikatene (yes to no).

9.50pm: Family First has wasted no time, issuing a press release almost immediately, intoning, "77 politicians commit 'act of vandalism'".

10.30pm: The Herald's first report on this evening's activity is here; Stuff's is here. Parliament Today here. And TVNZ, and Radio NZ.

11.20pm: Via the Herald's Claire Trevett, here are the voting papers, for and against, with details on who voted how. The ayes, completed by Trevor Mallard, have been noted in pink ink. (The names marked "P" indicate proxy votes - a few senior ministers were missing tonight.)

The news agency reports are appearing already around the world. Here's Nick Perry's AP report, in the New York Times, and the Reuters account is here.

That's it for this evening; more tomorrow, and at some point I'll correct the spelling errors and make this absurdly long blog less cumbersome. The vote has certainly proved popular on social media tonight; so popular, as @Fibby17 notes, that even the misspelled tweets are trending:

Thursday April 18, 11am: A couple of excellent bits of analysis in the Herald this morning: by John Armstrong and Claire Trevett.

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, who chooses his words carefully, has issued a press release titled "Day of Reckoning Still to Come". That follows an earlier, stark tweet ...

April 18, 1.30pm: A bunch of other responses from today:

• The high-traffic US website Gawker liked Maurice Williamson’s speech: “This Incredible Marriage Equality Speech by a New Zealand Member of Parliament Is a Must-Watch”. (Watch it above.)

• The Huffington Post thinks Williamson’s speech “incredible”, too.

In Australia, however, I think they might have slightly overstated the impact of his words:

• David Bennett tells the Waikato Times why he switched to a yes vote.

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar summarises the third reading debate. And here's a more emotional post from Farrar later in the day - in which he reveals that he celebrated last night till 4am. (After the second reading, he got home, he said then on his blog, at 2.30am. Just as well there's no fourth reading.)

Public Address’s Russell Brown: “The clarity of the idea at hand last night was a rare treasure. The treasure, you might say, at the end of the rainbow.”

• At Scoop, Gordon Campbell: “It would be nice to think that MPs will now collaborate in the same way to combat other personal and social evils, such as child poverty. Don’t hold your breath.”

• At The Daily Blog, Martyn Bradbury: “If only we cared about feeding the kids as much as we cared about Marriage Equality”. And the Queen of Thorns on “the next steps”.

• Moata Tamaira blogs here.

• And in the new Listener, Peter Wells writes on why he and partner Douglas Lloyd Jenkins will never get married.

Friday April 19, 11.30am: The governor general has signed the bill. It has royal assent, and so becomes the law of the land.

If I calculate correctly, that means the first same-sex wedding in New Zealand could be conducted on August 11, a Monday.

Apparently, they're already queuing up to get hitched. And the Australians will be flooding over, too.

And they've been watching the footage of Wednesday night's debate in their thousands, too. The various clips have attracted more than 500,000 views.


Monday April 22: 2.30pm: Here's a roundup of Australian takes on NZ’s marriage equality law - with the brewing of a row about which country is more progressive, New Zealand or Australia, which includes as evidence a reference to the clothes New Zealander wear.

Oh, and internet superstar Maurice Williamson has been given clearance to go see Ellen. The piece I've linked to there repeats the claim that the New York Times described him as New Zealand's only openly gay MP. Which would be remarkable and funny, if it were true. I can find no evidence of the NY Times saying this. Anyone else?


Monday August 19, noon: The first same-sex weddings have taken place in New Zealand - and it has been a truly special day, for commercial radio at very least.  According to the Reigistar-General, 31 same-sex marriages were scheduled to take place today.

Australians Paul McCarthy and Trent Kandler tied the knot at Te Papa in Wellington.



For other parts of the marriage equality bill longblog - full coverage click here.
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