[From 19:30 – 21:55, Wednesday, I made NINE attempts but still could not secure an opportunity to take a call at the Bill’s second reading. The following is what I wished to say:]
To those who have accused me of sitting on the fence at the Bill’s first reading, I say to them they were right. Because I was torn between two extreme and opposing views, and I found both views to be very convincing. I therefore decided not to vote at the Bill’s first reading.
Following steps of a rather informal consultation with my fellow Asian constituents, and also constituents of wider communities, I’ve now decided to vote in favour of this Bill, for the following reasons:
Firstly, I would like to quote David Do, who is New Zealand born, but of Chinese-Vietnamese descent. He told the Parliamentary Select Committee that it was wrong to simply imagine Kiwis of European descent supported gay marriage, while those of Asian or Pacific background opposed it. He said many people within immigrant families supported gay marriage, but could not speak out. And he went on to say, and I quote:
“At least one thing that obviously unites the diverse Asian community is a desire to live free from discrimination, and to ensure everyone, regardless of their background, has the equal opportunity to succeed and live free lives.”
I believe it is very important for KiwiAsians to be informed, to be aware of the issues, so they can be knowledgeable participants in our democratic process. To be an informed participant, no matter how strongly they feel about the Bill – either for or against it – the decision is theirs and their decision should be respected.
To that extent I would like to thank Louisa Wall, Charles Chauvel and Asian Rainbow Community members especially David Do and Wai Ho for having their opinion pieces translated and published in the Asian media and having their voice heard. Because it is important that when, as a society, we make these far-reaching decisions, we also make sure that all the voices, and all the views, are heard in open dialogue.
Had I not followed such process and read some of the submissions from both sides, I would not be able to make up my mind now.
Secondly, we must look at how opinion on the marriage equality issue around the world is shifting quite rapidly at the moment.
Recently we have seen either voting in favour, or at least a major shift of opinion, in countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Ireland. Support in the United States has gone from 25 % in 1996 to 53 % today.
Just a few weeks ago, our former Speaker, The Right Honorable Dr Lockwood Smith, stated how much he now regretted voting against homosexual law reform. And the Prime Minister John Key was quoted as indirectly indicating that he regrets voting against civil unions – he says he was following his electorate, not his own views.
Do we want to be on the wrong side of history? I’ve found the following statement is very convincing:
“In 15 years’ time, new voters especially will struggle to understand how their local MP voted against allowing their friends who are happily married, to get married. It may be a bit like an MP in 1908 explaining to female voters why they were against them having a vote in 1893!”
As MP Nikki Kaye said in the first reading that New Zealand has a proud history of leading in issues of equality and passing a piece of legislation like this one will strengthen the rights and freedoms of a significant group of New Zealanders.
And I was also encouraged by Dr Paul Hutchison. At the first reading he spoke of his initial reticence but finally said he had not constructed strong enough intellectual, moral, health or even spiritual arguments against it. In the end it boiled down to the premise that all New Zealanders should have the right to civil marriage, irrespective of race, sex or gender.
I want to thank Young Labour, Young National and representatives from all other parties in Parliament for their contributions. It is rare and unprecedented that youth representatives from all eight parties in Parliament had come together to show their support for marriage equality.
Thirdly I want to express my sincere respect to those who remain opposed to this Bill. I want to thank the 204 people who sent letters to me and hundreds of others who emailed me and those who spoke to me about their strong views on why this Bill should not proceed.
I respect their views, and they can be assured I weighed up the opposing views very carefully. I salute my Labour colleagues Sua William Sio, Ross Robertson and Damien O’Connor for their courage and determination. Isn’t that wonderful that we live in this beautiful country where colleagues and everyone can express their different views and agree to disagree. That’s what democracy is all about!
I have decided not to sit on the fence because I am convinced that the issue is about equality, justice and human rights. And supporting these values tips the balance in favour of the Bill.
To conclude, I would like to quote a UK MP, a Conservative MP Nick Herbert:
“Are the marriages of millions of straight people about to be threatened because a few thousand gay people are permitted to join? Will they say: ‘Darling our marriage is over, because Sir Elton John has just become engaged to David Furnish’?”
The answer is obviously no. Neither will the institution of marriage become redundant when Lynda Topp marries her fiancée, Donna Luxton. To the contrary, we should be offering them our congratulations because marriage is about love and commitment, and this is the basis of any successful marriage.