NZ’s marriage equality bill, full coverage - part one

by Toby Manhire / 29 April, 2013
26 July - 29 August: Louisa Wall's bill is drawn from the ballot, the debate begins.
For other parts of the marriage equality bill longblog - full coverage click here.

Thursday 26 July, 2012, 1.00pm: The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was drawn from the members’ bill ballot today.

Labour MP Louisa Wall’s bill would legalise same-sex marriage. The key passage from the explanatory note: “The bill ... will ensure that all people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose.”

It will almost certainly be subject to a conscience vote in parliament.

Prime minister John Key has said he will vote in favour at the first reading. It is likely to proceed to select committee stage at very least, where the debate will be fascinating to watch.

Below is the (slightly abridged) draft bill; read in full in the PDF here.


Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill

Member’s Bill

Explanatory note

General policy statement

This Bill amends the Marriage Act 1955 (the principal Act) to ensure that its provisions are not applied in a discriminatory manner. The principal Act does not define marriage and makes no reference to a marriage being between a man and a woman. Essentially the principal Act sets out the technical requirements for the civil regulation of marriage. However, couples, other than a man and a woman, have not been permitted to obtain marriage licences under the principal Act.

This Bill will make it clear that a marriage is a union of 2 people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It will ensure that all people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose. Marriage, as a social institution, is a fundamental human right and limiting that human right to 1 group in society only does not allow for equality. This Bill will ensure that there is equality for people wishing to marry regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and will be in accordance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993 ...

The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:

1 Title

This Act is the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2012.

2 Commencement

This Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

3 Principal Act

This Act amends the Marriage Act 1955 (the principal Act).

4 Purpose

The purpose of this Act is to amend the principal Act to clarify that a marriage is between 2 people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

5 Section 2 amended (Interpretation)

In section 2(1), insert in its appropriate alphabetical order: “marriage means the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity”.

6 Schedule 2 replaced

Replace Schedule 2 with the Schedule 2 set out in the Schedule of this Act.

Schedule 2 s 15(1)

Prohibited degrees of marriage

(1) A person may not marry their—

(a) grandparent:

(b) parent:

(c) child:

(d) grandchild:

(e) sibling:

(f) parent’s sibling:

(g) sibling’s child:

(h) grandparent’s spouse or civil union partner:

(i) parent’s spouse or civil union partner:

(j) spouse’s or civil union partner’s parent:

(k) spouse’s or civil union partner’s grandparent:

(l) spouse’s or civil union partner’s child:

(m) child’s spouse or civil union partner:

(n) grandchild’s spouse or civil union partner:

(o) spouse’s or civil union partner’s grandchild.

(2) The prohibited degrees of marriage apply whether the relationships described are by the whole blood or by the half blood.

(3) In this Schedule, spouse and civil union partner includes a former spouse or former civil union partner, whether alive or deceased, and whether the marriage or civil union was terminated by death, dissolution, or otherwise.

Thursday 26 July, 1.30pm: Among respondents in a One News Colmar Brunton poll conducted in June 63% of eligible voters said they believe same-sex couples should be allowed to get married. Many MPs say they vote on conscience issues (this is very likely to be one) according to the view in their constituency. John Key - who has said he'll support such a bill in its first reading - has indicated he will take his guidance from the people of Helensville. Including Kim Dotcom, perhaps.

Speaking of Kim Dotcom, the gods seem to be in playful mood today. The marriage equality bill was drawn from the ballot at almost precisely the same time that the police formally announced they would not be laying charges against Act MP John Banks over anonymous donations from Dotcom in an earlier mayoral campaign.

Pressed on those donations and his relationship with Dotcom back in April, remember, Banks garbled: "What's your relationship? This is offensive! He's a married man, what are you talking about? ... I've had no relationship with Dotcom - he's got a wife ... I have never had a relationship with Dotcom, he is a married man."

Which seems sort of apposite.

Oh, and one more thing on the MP for Epsom. It was he, of course who said on the passing of the homosexual law reform bill in 1986: "This day will be remembered as a sad and sickening day for New Zealand."

Seems unlikely the bill will proceed unanimously.

Thursday 26 July, 2.10pm: A site campaigning for marriage equality has a list of MPs' positions on the issue. Their assessment of the number of MPs likely to support the bill at first reading is given as "Yes: 57 No: 15 Undecided: 7 Unknown: 42."

The site says "this information is based on emails, conversations and reports contained on news sites or other blogs", and acknowledges there many be errors (for example, Hone Harawira's position appears less clear-cut than a simple "no" [update, 2.35pm, Harawira has told reporters he will vote in favour of the bill at first reading, which contradicts the marriage equality group's account), but assuming that's broadly right, the bill will only need to garner four more yes votes to go through its first reading at least.

H/T @ghetshum

The site YourNZ is also busy compiling MPs' statements on the issue.

To get a sense of the shifting public attitudes on gay rights issues (and the way public sentiment has paved the way for legislative change), read Russell Brown's post from 2004.





Thursday 26 July, 3.30pm: Some statements on the bill ...

The Young Nats: "We support marriage equality and will be lobbying National Members of Parliament to do the same."

Green party announces support.

Hone Harawira "said that on behalf of MANA he would be proud to support Miss Wall’s bill at first reading and looked forward to further discussions with her about the future of her bill".

And in the Olympic spirit, there may be a race between Scotland and New Zealand to see which country will legislate first.

Friday July 27, 2.30pm: The most telling take on the political impact of the bill so far came from 3 News. MPs scatter like a lolly scramble on rewind on the question of how they’ll vote. Lots of dodging the question. Watch it here.

The people at the New Zealand for Marriage Equality campaign have updated their rough tally (see Thursday 2.10pm). It now looks like this: Yes 55; No 15; Undecided 10; Unknown 41. Still five off a majority for the first reading, but that shouldn’t be a problem. The crucial vote will come later.

New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser and leader of the Conservative party (who have no MPs) Colin Craig have made their views clear on Twitter.

Also on Twitter, Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford (Labour) was coming under plenty of pressure last night over his position – that he’ll consult with constituents before deciding which way to go.


Blogging at, Patrick Gower says “Whether John Key says ‘I do’ or ‘I don't’ to same-sex marriage will decide whether or not the bill passes” – and he suggests an interesting scenario: that Key supporting the bill could empower the Conservative party, therefore providing National with a more stable ongoing coalition partner.

Having watched that 3 News clip, Emma Hart warns, at Public Address, to expect plenty of “barefaced weaselling” from politicians.

Rightwing blogger Cameron Slater has called Colin Craig’s tweet (see above) “outrageous”, adding, “We don’t need this sort of intolerance in our society.”

And Scott Yorke of Imperator Fish does satire in “Same-sex marriage bill a threat to civilisation”.

Finally for now, Bill English has said that the marriage equality bill is not a priority for him – it’s the economy he’s interested in. So advocates might like to make the case for the economic stimulus that allowing gay marriage might provide. It’s safe to assume that wedding-based businesses would welcome the potential for a new market. Perhaps people could be attracted from across the Tasman even. Just look at New York: legalised gay marriage has reportedly brought in US $259m to New York in a year.




Monday July 30, 11.20am: The prime minister has indicated that he will support the bill in its passage through parliament. John Key told Radio Live this morning:

You go through all the merits of the argument and look at what people put up; but my view is that if two gay people want to get married I can't see why it would undermine my marriage with Bronagh.

He had previously signalled he'd back the bill in its first reading, but the suggestion that he'll back it all the way could well influence a number of his parliamentary colleagues who have previously been much too busy to mull the issue over.

Key added:

There will be plenty of people in our caucus who will be deeply opposed - particularly the very religious ones, and I can understand that," he said.

I think it's quite healthy that New Zealand has the debate, I suspect it won't be what it was when you looked at homosexual law reform in the 70s - I don't think it will be that dramatic.

Monday July 30, 1.05pm: The most significant development of the day is John Key’s signal that he’ll support the marriage equality bill all the way. See below for that. Here are some of the other developments since Friday:

A coalition including Family First has launched Protect Marriage, a website making the case against legalising same-sex marriage. Their strapline: “one man. one woman. that’s marriage.”

At, Red Queen reviews the Protect Marriage site – “Everything about this website screams shoddy rush job.”

The site has been wobbly all morning, with large periods of outage, if you will. It has other problems. The NZ Herald reports that the San Francisco band Train have ordered that they remove one of their songs from the site.

The Marriage Equality site is offering a tool to generate an email to your MP.

David Farrar of Kiwiblog has fisked Conservative leader Colin Craig’s statements on the subject, including his “ignorant and offensive” suggestion in a TV3 interview that “people choose to be gay rather than being born that way, many as a result of being abused as children”.

Danyl Mclauchlan of Dim-Post has written “sort of standing up for the Conservative Party on their opposition to gay marriage”. He also suggests that John Key’s statement today makes the passage of the bill essentially a “done deal”. (See also Patrick Gower’s blog post, mentioned below, Friday July 27, 2.30pm.)


Tuesday July 31, 2.30pm: The New Zealand First party has announced in a statement that its eight MPs will "not vote for" the bill. Why? Because they believe it should go to a referendum. In vintage Winston Peters style, confusion has been sewn over whether they will abstain or vote against.

The latest tally of MPs' likely votes, based on NZ First voting "No": Yes 52; No 22; Undecided 11; Unknown 39. The bill needs 61 votes to progress.

Wednesday August 1, 9.30am: RNZ's Morning Report has conducted a "straw poll" of New Zealand MPs, finding that 58 have decided ("definitely") to vote yes at the first reading and only eight against. Of the undecided, "enough said they were leaning towards yes to get numbers over the 61 votes required".

Meanwhile, 3 News had another bash yesterday at getting MPs to explain their positions.

Thursday August 2, 3.00pm: The sponsor of the marriage definitions bill, Labour's Louisa Wall, and the Conservative party leader, Colin Craig, have taken part in a Stuff chat this afternoon. The main newsline emerging seems to be Craig's suggestion that the bill paves the way for polygamy.


Monday August 6, 5.00pm: A handful of commentary pieces from recent days ...

An editorial in the Dominion Post this morning weighs in behind the bill:

The law as it stands belongs to a society that disappeared long ago. It is discriminatory and it is time it was changed.

Michael Laws in the Sunday Star Times says it’s no big deal, but that it should nevertheless be decided – as Winston Peters has argued – by a plebiscite.

Rodney Hide in the Herald on Sunday frames a cogent historical argument in favour of the bill.

Here’s a transcript of Louisa Wall and Colin Craig debating the issue on TV3’s The Nation.

And a Colmar Brunton poll puts support for the marriage equality bill at 63%.

Wednesday August 8, 4.00pm: Labour's Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson and Mangere MP, Su'a William Sio, has opened an internal debate by calling for the marriage equality bill to be withdrawn. He told Radio New Zealand that it risks damaging the party by repelling Pacific Island voters, churchgoers particularly. Wall has dismissed the call, and doubts have been raised over the suggestion that Maori and Pacific people are more likely to disappove of the proposed change.

Never one for understatement, 3 News's Patrick Gower says of the development: "The gay marriage bill has started to tear the Labour Party to pieces." What is more, the legislation "seems to be the gift that keeps on giving - for John Key and Colin Craig".

Meanwhile, more than 20,000 people have reportedly signed a Family First petition opposing the legalisation of same-sex marriage.



Wednesday August 15, 2.00pm: A number of newspapers have editorialised on the proposed legislation. Here’s a roundup.

From the Christchurch Press (August 8): “The strongest argument of all is this: New Zealanders should not discriminate. Once, mixed-race marriages would have been frowned upon, along with unions which crossed the boundaries of class or religion. We have rightly moved beyond all that. Now is the time to move beyond this barrier, and let people declare love and be acknowledged for who they are.”

The Waikato Times (August 1) appeared ambivalent in an editorial headlined “A socially divisive bill”: “The fence-sitters on his team have been given a steer and the bill is likely to get enough support to be sent to a select committee. That's when the public's arguments for and against must be carefully weighed.”

The Southland Times (July 31): “Those for whom marriage is special for what it excludes, rather than for what it embraces, are becoming proportionately fewer. New Zealand should be ready for gay marriage. We hope it is.”

The Manawatu Standard (July 30), in an editorial penned by Warwick Rasmussen, wrote: “Those who were against civil unions feared all kinds of horrible things would happen to our society if that proposal passed into law. Guess what? Those things never happened. The only real impact was that couples got the chance to live the lives they wanted to. Allowing gay marriage is the next natural step in that progression.”

The Marlborough Express (July 30): “This legislation will not lead to the degradation of society; it will give same-sex couples the same matrimonial rights as their brothers and sisters, their neighbours and workmates. This bill should be passed without taking up too much debating time in the House.”

As previously noted (see Monday August 6), the Dominion Post thinks the bill is a jolly good idea.

As far as I’m aware, we are yet to get editorials on the subject from the New Zealand Herald or the Otago Daily Times.

The Listener’s Jane Clifton says: “What you won’t vote for is just as revealing as what you will. And the consequences of that choice can haunt MPs for years.”

NZ Herald columnist Tapu Misa wrote on Monday in favour of the bill.

In the Dominion Post, Rosemary McLeod was left baffled by the enduring popularity of the tainted institution of marriage.

And Steve Braunias has stolen Colin Craig’s private diary and published excerpts.



Monday August 20, 1.30pm: Garth George has spoken. The former Herald columnist and moralist tub-thumper argues in the Rotorua Daily Post why marriage should remain the "exclusive preserve of heterosexuals": because "by their very nature, homosexuals and lesbians cannot reproduce, except through IVF treatments or by the use of surrogate fathers or mothers".

GG goes on to say: "The original meaning of gay was light-hearted and carefree, yet no homosexual I've ever met could be so described."

Emma Hart's response at the Lady Garden - "Dear Garth George, I love you" - is worth a read.



Tuesday August 28, 10pm: The bill is scheduled to be debated in parliament for the first time tomorrow - see the draft order paper (PDF).

Coverage of the exchanges will appear here - along with a roundup of activity over recent days (including a surprise announcement by John Banks). Apologies for lack of updates. I've been having a lovely holiday.


Wednesday August 29, 11am: The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill is scheduled to receive its first hearing today in parliament (PDF). It appears likely that a majority of MPs, most voting according to their conscience, will support the bill, which will see it sent into the lush idyll of select committee debate.

The latest tally at looks like this: Yes 65; No 15; No/abstain 8; undecided 8; unknown 25. The Herald's count, infographicked up here, says 66 will vote in favour. That leaves a bit of breathing space for Louisa Wall and supporters – you’d be brave to bet against it progressing.

Parliament Today notes, however, that “it will take careful time management to get to a vote on it this evening”. But we should see “a vote before 10pm if there are no delays, urgent debates or roadblocks put in the way”.

As supporters even now gather in Wellington’s Civic Square for a rally ahead of a march to the big politics house, here’s a roundup of some of the important news, analysis and commentary from recent days.

A petition from 50,000 people opposed to marriage equality has been delivered to parliament.

The New Zealand Herald at last inks an editorial on the subject this morning, with the headline: “Society more relaxed over gay marriage”. It’s hardly a full throated endorsement of the bill, but in essence suggests that the public mood has moved to the point where it should be passed.

The Herald also sports a column from Bruce Logan – “Same-sex marriage threatens civil liberty” - which is by contrast full-throated in its opposition to the change.

A surprise vote in favour of the bill will come from John Banks, the parliamentary embodiment of the ACT party. Remember, it was he, as a National MP in 1986, who said as the homosexual law reform bill passed: "This day will be remembered as a sad and sickening day for New Zealand."

Why then is he backing this bill? “Because I am.” I am increasingly convinced the man is an invention of Alfred Jarry.

If Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford thought he’d be lauded by marriage equality advocates for his eventual decision to support the bill, he was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Conservative party leader Colin Craig has responded to Steve Braunias's satircal diary column in rather puzzling fashion. Puzzling in that he makes no reference to the substance of the diary, including its roaring overarching homoerotic theme.

The youth wings of National, Labour, Green, Mana and Act parties have issued a joint statement urging all their MPs to vote in favour of the bill at its first reading.

Tamati Coffey of TV One Breakfast has been very busy waving the marriage equality flag, including on Twitter, where he garnered scores of supportive responses, including one from an All Black. Here he is writing for Stuff.

David Kiwiblog Farrar, in the first of a series of posts on the subject, rounds up the conservative case for gay marriage here.

Newstalk ZB’s Felix Marwick has made a rare dip into the world of opinion writing. He thinks the marriage equality bill should be backed.

Pastors in south Auckland have been piling on pressure against the bill, but Wellington church St Matthew’s in the City has announced it will erect a pro-bill billboard, with a pair of women kissing on a cake (tastefully), emblazoned, “St Matthew’s Doesn’t Care Who’s On Top”. Which doesn’t quite seem the most coherent bit of copywriting. But you get what they mean.

And someone has mischievously registered and redirected it to a pro-marriage-equality site. (The firsters’ home is in fact

Blog continues as part two.

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


Fall into a beautiful abyss at this must-see dance show in Auckland
102571 2019-02-20 12:12:54Z Where to go in Auckland

Fall into a beautiful abyss at this must-see dance…

by Metro

A contemporary dance show that marries dystopian anxiety with raw energy is a must-see at the Auckland Arts Festival.

Read more
Climate change declaration 'politically charged' – Thames-Coromandel mayor
102563 2019-02-20 09:39:08Z Planet

Climate change declaration 'politically charged' –…

by Kate Gudsell

A push to get local authorities to sign up to a declaration on climate change is "politically charged and driven", the Thames-Coromandel mayor says.

Read more
What's inside Metro's March/April 2019 issue?
102558 2019-02-20 09:24:47Z Auckland Issues

What's inside Metro's March/April 2019 issue?

by Metro

Top 50 wines, rappers Church & AP, fast-talking poet Selina Tusitala Marsh and what to see at Auckland Arts Festival.

Read more
China could be using Taiwan as a testing ground for disinformation campaigns
102550 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z World

China could be using Taiwan as a testing ground fo…

by Gavin Ellis

A Taiwanese diplomat’s death in Japan has become a symbol of the consequences and dangers of disinformation.

Read more
The best way to beat food cravings? Fill up on the objects of your desire
102087 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z Nutrition

The best way to beat food cravings? Fill up on the…

by Jennifer Bowden

Research has shown that dieters’ attempts to resist eating certain foods appear to lead to cravings for those foods.

Read more
Deepfake: How disinformation fools our brains and damages democracy
102545 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z Tech

Deepfake: How disinformation fools our brains and…

by Gavin Ellis

Message manipulation using bots, algorithms and, now, AI software is making it harder to know what’s real – and threatening democracy itself.

Read more
Move to introduce digital tax for foreign companies profiting online
102519 2019-02-19 09:23:12Z Economy

Move to introduce digital tax for foreign companie…

by RNZ

New Zealand is lining up to introduce a new tax on multinational companies that make money out of online goods and services in this country.

Read more
National's high-risk gamble on marijuana and euthanasia
102484 2019-02-19 00:00:00Z Politics

National's high-risk gamble on marijuana and eutha…

by Graham Adams

Having polarising MPs like Paula Bennett and Maggie Barry leading the opposition to popular reforms could be kryptonite to the National Party.

Read more