20,000 sign petition against same-sex marriage

An online petition opposing the legalisation of same-sex marriage has been signed by nearly 20,000 people in its first week.

Conservative lobby group Family First launched the petition on its protectmarriage.co.nz website last Monday as part of its campaign against the marriage equality bill put forward by Labour MP Louisa Wall.

It said it had gathered 19,928 signatures by 6am today.

The petition statement reads: "I support the definition of marriage in New Zealand being maintained as one man one woman. I oppose any attempt to redefine it."

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said the response was "great news" after a series of early setbacks for the website.

It was taken offline on its first day by a large scale denial of service attack before coming under fire from US band Train for using their song Marry Me without permission.

"There is no shortage of energy and robust debate - and on such an important issue as the role and purpose of marriage, that's great news," Mr McCoskrie said.

"We have been calling for recognition of the value and importance of marriage for a long time. Although distracted by the 'definition' debate, it is still a great opportunity to promote marriage and its important function and purpose in our culture."

Meanwhile, a Labour MP has spoken out against the marriage equality bill over fears it will cost his party at the 2014 general election.

Su'a William Sio, the MP for Mangere, is calling for Ms Wall, a fellow South Auckland MP, to drop the bill.

He told Radio New Zealand the bill was deeply divisive in his electorate, which has the highest Pacific population of any constituency in the country.

It was likely to cost Labour some of its core Pacific support, he said.

"This issue cuts deep into fundamental beliefs and it will divide the community ... . I feel somewhat betrayed by raising issues such as this when there are more prominent, more weightier issues such as jobs and income and putting food on the table and paying for the bills."

Ms Wall said she completely disagreed that her bill would divide traditional Labour supporters and cost the party at the next election.

"Issues of human rights and eliminating discrimination wherever we see it are fundamental policies of the Labour Party."

She said she had received support from Maori and Pacific communities, along a number of church leaders over the bill.

Much of the opposition to the bill was down to inaccurate "scaremongering" such as claims churches would be forced to marry gay couples, she said.

"Fundamentally it's about two people who love each other going to the state and getting their union solemnised."

The select committee process for the bill, which is expected to pass its first reading, was more important than petitions on sites such as protectmarriage.co.nz, Ms Wall said.

- Hayden Donnell, nzherald.co.nz

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