A bill to legalise same-sex marriage should be passed into
law, a Parliamentary Select Committee has recommended.
The Government Administration Committee said the private
member's bill should progress, but with an amendment to make
it clear that no minister was obliged to marry someone
against their own beliefs.
The committee report said: "The bill seeks to extend the
legal right to marry to same-sex couples; it does not seek to
interfere with people's religious freedoms."
The Marriage Act would be amended to put beyond doubt that no
celebrant recognised by a religious body or nominated by an
approved organisation would have to marry a couple if it
meant contravening their own, or the organisation's beliefs.
The bill's sponsor, Labour MP Louisa Wall, said the law
change was an important milestone towards achieving a fairer,
more equal New Zealand.
"Marriage equality is about fairness and choice. This process
has showed that that message has really resonated with New
Zealanders and has been echoed overseas with the recent
passage of similar legislation in the UK."
The report also said a majority of the select committee
agreed that marriage was a human right, and that it was
unacceptable for the state to deny this right to same-sex
Some members of the committee felt that marriage was not a
right, and should continue to be the sole domain of
The committee received 21,533 submissions on the bill, 2898
of which had unique content. Of the submissions, 10,487 were
in favour and 8148 against.
The committee acknowledged that New Zealanders held "sincere
and strong beliefs" about the importance of marriage.
"The passion with which submitters made their arguments to us
MPs said they were impressed by the participation of young
people in the discussion, with heartfelt submissions heard
from both side sides of the debate.
"We are heartened that so many of the younger generation,
which is so often maligned as uninterested in politics and
marriage, chose to involve themselves in this debate."
The bill's second reading will be held on March 13.
The legislation passed its first reading by 80 votes to 40.
- By Isaac Davison of the NZ Herald