It’s funny what one man says can do to the conscience of so many people. Even those who are not technically affected by this person’s decisions or statements suddenly find themselves engrossed in a conversation that pertains to the topic touted by such a ‘great’ man. But such is the interconnected world that we live in now that the statements made by Barack Obama the President of the United States; has led a situation where now New Zealand’s legislature maybe confronted with perhaps the most controversial bill to come before the house in recent times. The issue of Gay Marriage.
It’s rather ironic that the two members’ bills that have been placed in the ballot for debate have been drafted so hastily and so publicly considering that less than a month ago, the issue wasn’t even close to being on the agenda. Rather, the country has been imploring the government to not go ahead with selling its assets as opposed to a lively discussion about whether we should let Adam and Steve join in legal matrimony.
And let’s not ignore the violent storm of public opposition to the government’s proposed education reforms (that was hastily reversed after it was apparent that it could be an issue to bring them down at the next poll)
But such is the fickleness of politics. A master politician wields far greater influence than any ordinary citizen can imagine. And an American president, nonetheless, has given LGBT rights campaigners in New Zealand the impetus to force the debate to the public fore. This coupled with a survey conducted by TVNZ which said that 63% of the country was now in support of gay marriage, the time has never seemed more ripe for New Zealand’s last bastion of discriminatory legislation to finally be brought out into the public, aired, dried and hopefully retired to the yesteryear of backward, conservative bigoted thinking.
It’s been a fast rise for the LGBT community in New Zealand. Homosexuality itself was only decriminalised in 1986, when I was 2 years old, and now nearly 30 years on, we are on the cusp of perhaps the country’s biggest signal that it has arrived at a point of social tolerance that encompasses all minorities. A status that really can only be afforded to a small developed nation like ours at the back end of the world, where social experiment is something we aren’t afraid of.
The path to this point has been rather interesting though. In 2004 the then Labour government (socially progressive) passed the Civil Unions Act, which allowed same sex couples to join legally and live just like a married couple. We thought that this was progressive for the country at the time and struck the right compromise between the conservatives and the progressives as marriage was more of a ‘religious’ institution in most people’s eyes. So it seemed everyone was happy with this arrangement.
So what has changed then to push gay marriage back on to the agenda in New Zealand? Besides President Obama’s ringing endorsement, and John Key’s half endorsement (if you could call it that) there were a couple of things that most of us weren’t aware of.
The government of the day claimed that the Civil Unions Act 2004 would give same sex couples and heterosexual couples that opted for a civil union the same legal rights as a married couple. It would just remove the religious aspect of the bonding of two people. Helen Clark the then Prime Minister even went as far to say that if she had had the option in her day, she would have had a Civil Union instead of Marriage to her long suffering husband Peter.
One thing we all forgot to pay attention to was the fact that under New Zealand adoption laws, a same sex couple could not legally adopt a baby even if they are in a recognised legal civil union.(It has recently been pointed out to me that this also true for heterosexual couples) So this is where the lines become blurry and the voice of dissent louder. I suppose then the easiest thing would be to just amend the adoption act right? Well, yes it would be, but would it be the right thing to do?
I thought about this long and hard at first. I asked myself, is it really necessary for gay marriage to be allowed? Is it worth all the angst, the public outcry, the heated and misinformed debate. The bigots attacking the gays, the liberals being labelled gay for supporting the ‘gays’. Why don’t we take the easy way out? Compromise is such a New Zealand thing to do!
But I answered my question with one simple sentence. Because it’s the right thing to do.
Why is that a small section of our society should be denied the basic right that is afforded to every man and woman due to their sexuality? It’s more than the right thing to do, it’s a basic human right. To be joined in matrimony with the person YOU love.
And that’s essentially it. Someone can not control who they fall in love with. And you and I have no right to tell them otherwise. In a world where love is difficult for many to find, why must we shun those who have found it just because it came in a form that we aren’t used to?
A wise woman once said to me that ‘I identify myself as a being capable of love, because although I prefer the company of men, I can not rule out falling in love with a woman. Because love knows no physical boundaries, true love connects two beings’. It was in that moment the penny dropped for me.
Unfortunately it hasn’t dropped for others.
Recently in the media, New Zealand First Member of Parliament Le’au Asenati Lole-Taylor came out rather aggressively in her opposition to the gay marriage debate and labelled the debate a ‘waste of time’. To quote the esteemed first term MP, she said to the Samoa Observer Newspaper:
“What I find irritating is that all of a sudden politicians or certain people are in support of it because President Obama said it, and because 63 percent of people polled are in support of it,The truth is, that’s 63 percent of people the surveyors spoke to, not 63 percent of the New Zealand population, let’s be completely honest about that.”
Apparently she disagrees with the TVNZ poll. And thinks people only support it because other people do? Interesting logic. She goes on to say:
“The media should be play(ing) its role to inform our people about some of the important issues that has to do with the cost of living, future direction of the country, education, employment and so on. Those are the things media should be bringing to the people so they are aware and be part and participate in them.”
I was taken aback at how low brow the quality of some of our politician’s comments can be. To say things like the media should be bringing ‘important’ issues to our people, is poor even by a novice politician’s standards.
What could be any more important to a person than recognition that they are an equal of any other person in our free society? What is more important than someone’s human rights? And this coming from a member of one of New Zealand’s other minority communities. To me it is rather disappointing. But she is not alone in her criticism of the debate.
Labour’s Su’a William Sio, another Samoan Member of Parliament wrote this in a column for the Samoa Observer: “I have received strong views from our Pacific community, the Asian community as well as Muslims regarding this topic. “I believe the majority [of them] hold to the belief that a marriage is a divine covenant made between a man and a woman and that covenant remains from beginning until the end of time.”
The word ‘Divine’ is the one that gets me the most. Because if you are Samoan you know for a fact that there is sometimes nothing ‘Divine’ about our people’s sexual practices. We don’t talk about it, but we all know it happens (married men sleeping with other men and fa’afafeine) And where does the Bible mention anything about fa’afafeine being a third gender? It doesn’t, yet it is a view widely regarded in Samoa as being a social custom. The truth be told our community are closeted bigots when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. And we promote an idea of social piety when in actual reality, we are far from chaste or pure.
Our community boasts one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in New Zealand. We also have one of the highest teenage delinquency rates, yet we remain one of the most religious. Somehow, that correlation just does not seem to fit a logical order.
And neither does our view on gay marriage. Sio even admits later on in his column that: “The issue is sensitive because there are Samoan same-sex couples living together. Some of them raising children. And that is not new. Many of these couples are also strong supporters of the church and their extended families. These same-sex couples have mixed answers. Some would like to marry and others prefer the status quo.”
So there is recognition that they do exist. So why are our community so tight lipped about it?
I guess we are sticklers for hierarchy, and even in some crude way, Samoan society accepts fa’afafeine and ‘gays’ at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
There have been signs of change in Samoa. The Prime Minister is the patron of the fa’afafeine society/association and there are many fa’afafeine who are now working in Samoa’s public service, some of which are my good friends and family.
But the issue goes to the core of what Samoans do that piss me the hell off. (excuse my bluntness) Our refusal to support anything that may upset the hierarchy is really just an attempt at exerting dominance over another group. There is no reason why Samoans should be opposed to gay marriage. But it would mean that Samoans would have to accept a caste of people, that they have long designated to the bottom of the heap in society, and recognise that they actually do have something valuable to contribute. This scares the institution more than anything else in my opinion.
So as beautiful and wonderful my culture is, there are things I still loathe about it. Namely in this regard, the utter hypocrisy demonstrated by our leaders in New Zealand and their lack of a backbone. Their job is to serve all the community, not just the part that they are enraptured with. The majority.
And what about the others who are Non-Samoan and opposed to gay marriage? What do I have to say to them? Well let’s be honest. A common response I always get when I ask people why they are opposed to it is because it’s unnatural, it’s between a man and a woman. Well your lack of an explanation is all the explanation I need. Could you perhaps be a tad homophobic?
It’s like how a racist always precursors a racist statement with “I’m not racist but…” and proceeds to make a racist statement; such is the same logic behind your inability to find a sound argument for your opinion to be propped up on.
There is no logical or ‘natural’ reason to disallow gay marriage. People say that gay marriage will cause an upheaval in society. That’s not the ‘gays’ fault, that’s societies fault for being closed minded. I even read in a column by a New Zealand herald columnist that ‘gays’ shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because it will have severe damages on a child having to battle through discrimination all their lives because of their parent’s choice. That has nothing to do with their parents, the only thing that is causing the severe damage is the society itself. It’s refusal to accept others for their differences and your inability to focus on your own life and your insistent poking into other peoples business is really the issue here.
And that’s just it. Why do people get so worked up about gay marriage in the first place? No one’s telling you to have one. so what if your neighbours down the road do? You’re not walking down the aisle. So why don’t you just take a seat and let love be.
And the issue of religion is something that I really can’t stand. It’s a touchy subject for Samoans and I would probably need an entire new post to let out my frustrations.
But I just want fellow Christians to know this, God has made all of us in his image, he has earmarked all of us in his plans. Concentrate on your own plan and on letting God have his way in your life, rather than trying to get the Drag Queens on Kr’d to turn in their high heels!
Your right to your religion doesn’t give you the right to take away another person’s freedom. That is the most anti-christian thing I have ever heard in my life.
So let others be who they want to be, and let them be with who they want to be if you are a true Christian.
Because if you’re so busy making a huge racket, and screaming to other people to repent, chances are you’ll be too busy trying to be pious that you won’t hear God call out to you to love your neighbour as he has loved you.