Separate or equal?

You may remember that recently both Barack Obama and John Key came out personally in favour of gay marriage, writes Emelia Mixter of Logan Park High School.

Whatever their reasons, it certainly brought the issue back to the table and it is causing New Zealand to review where it really stands on the issue.

Do we keep our current position with Civil Unions, or do we go forward into what could be considered equality and legalise gay marriage?

Currently, I am working on a short documentary, interviewing people whose lives have been affected since the Civil Union Act of 2005.

And it's incredible just how broad the spectrum of opinion is on the old legislation.

For some, a Civil Union is a way to get married without any religious connotations.

For others, it's simply a marriage with a few legal barriers.

But some would say that it is a case of separate but not equal; a way for us to ignore the issues at hand and keep everybody relatively happy.

In the past few weeks I have learned that it is all of these things.

The major issue surrounding Civil Partnerships is the question of adoption.

Adoption authorities do not recognise civil partners as an actual couple and frankly it's hard enough as it is to adopt as a married couple, let alone individually.

However now thanks to the bipartisan support of the Green party's Kevin Hague and National's Nikki Kaye there is a debate to change that. This is a great thing; a great step forward.

Except now there is very little distinction between what constitutes a marriage and what constitutes a Civil Union.

So why can't we just allow any two people who want to, to get married?

Even since the Civil Union Act of 2005, people's attitudes have changed spectacularly.

Maybe we're not perfect, but New Zealand is becoming a much more accepting society than it was even ten or twenty years ago.

So what is stopping us from going even further on the issue of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) rights?

I talked to a Civil Union celebrant who said, "I think that Civil Unions are a case of separate but not equal. I mean if there is a couple who love each other and want to be together, why can't they just get married? I mean do we really have to have a whole separate category of Civil Unions?"

Sure, as a political move, legalizing gay marriage is risky and not everyone is going to agree with it.

But not everyone agreed with the Civil Union Act either; flashback to images of Destiny Church rallies. However now, for both straight and gay couples, it's become a very normal way of living.

When I asked a woman who had undergone a Civil Union with her partner in 2010, what she thought of the controversy and debate, she said, "Well there are always going to be people who will find something to hate; that doesn't fit in with their world view, you know, down with Fruit Juice! But gay marriage and Civil Unions are really only part of a very long list that they have..."

Do you remember how we look back at times like the 1950s, where American people were protesting integration in public schools, and how over 60% of white Americans were "willing to support segregated schools?"

Now we think of those people as ignorant, right?

Maybe in 50 years, our own grandchildren will see the issue of gay marriage in a similar light.

While my analogy may seem a little unfair to those people out there who don't support gay marriage, I think it's important for people to take a good look at their own political values.

To politicians who are on the fence over this issue, I say you can either be remembered for what you stood up for, or forgotten for what you didn't do.

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