It’s not often these days that we can say it, but today, we are a better country. Shortly, the first of 31 same-sex couples who have registered to marry will do so on the first day they are able to. (as an aside congrats to Jeff Montgomery, the Marriage Registrar and the team at DIA who have done a great job in preparing for today). Today marks the culmination of years of work from thousands of New Zealanders to achieve marriage equality- congratulations and thanks to you all.
We are a better country today because we take further steps towards equality. I have always held that a country that can include people, rather than seek to exclude will be stronger. For many New Zealanders their exclusion from a cherished social institution such as marriage made them feel second class. The heart of this issue is that we can show that we all have the same intrinsic human value and that we should all have a fair chance at life. We have a long way to go when it comes to equality in New Zealand, but in the case of marriage, today we get there.
We are a better country today because we are giving a new generation one of the great gifts- hope. Yesterday I attended a terrific celebration of the entry into force of the law, which doubled as a fundraiser for Schools Out, the support group for LGBT secondary school students. For those young people the message of this Bill is that they can have hope for a life where they will be treated fairly and embraced for who they are. The challenges facing young people coming to terms with their sexuality still loom large. But through this Act, just as it was for me with Homosexual Law Reform in 1986, they can dream about what their life might be with some real hope.
We are a better country today because we recognise the importance of love. Some of the most moving submissions that were received on the Bill were from parents. They told us of their unconditional love for their children, and their desire that all their children, whether they were straight or gay, be given the same shot at happiness. The love of parents and the love of a couple who desire to make a commitment are both given new life today.
At Alf and my Civil Union my very good friend Alex sang this song. As he said that day, it is fundamentally about courage. Today is about the courage of those who worked so hard to stand against discrimination over so many decades, and the courage of those who will today, finally, have the chance to show their love and commitment to their partners. As Nick Cave says ” we make a little history”, today.