Wednesday 27 February 2013

New Zealand is for Lovers: 92% chance

When I was at George Mason, the State of Virginia ran a tourism campaign called "Virginia is for Lovers". That campaign's been around for a while.

In 2006, Virginia passed the Marshall-Newman Amendment to the State Constitution defining marriage as being only between one man and one woman, and barring anything providing recognition of marriage-like contracts between homosexual couples or polyamourous groups. 1,328,537 people in Virginia voted to ban homosexual couples' contractual rights; 999,687 voted against the Amendment.

In January, a legislative subcommittee killed an attempt to repeal the Marshall-Newman amendment.

New Zealand implemented civil unions under Helen Clark's Labour government. At the time, it seemed a great way of getting contractual rights for same-sex couples without imposing undue distress on social conservatives. But the Act has proven deficient, especially around adoption rights recognizing the same-sex partner as the co-parent of an adopted child.

The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, a Private Member's Bill, is currently before the New Zealand Parliament. It will enshrine true marriage equality while maintaining freedom of association rights: celebrants or churches that do not wish to consecrate same-sex partnerships will not have to. While some, like @norightturn, have criticised this as illegal discrimination, the freedom of association rights seem awfully important. Further, if there were somebody who hated Canadians so much he didn't want to be celebrant at weddings involving Canadians, I'd really like him to be on some kind of register so I didn't accidentally hire him were I in the market for a wedding celebrant.

The Bill stands a 92% chance of receiving Royal Assent in 2013. Private Member's Bills rarely pass.

From the report back from Committee:

We accept that for many people of religious persuasion marriage is a covenant between one man, one woman, and God, for the purpose of procreation. A large number of people and organisations have expressed their concern that, were this bill to pass, celebrants could not lawfully refuse to solemnise a marriage that would conflict with their religious beliefs. Other people with religious convictions argue that marriage is foremost about celebrating the love shared between two people, and that their inability to marry same-sex couples constitutes a constraint on their freedom to practice their religion. We accept the right of people to hold religious and cultural beliefs, and we make no attempt to dissuade people from holding them.
It is our intention that the passage of this bill should not impact negatively upon people’s religious freedoms. The Marriage Act enables people to become legally married; it does not ascribe moral or religious values to marriage. 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. We recommend an amendment to section 29 of the Marriage Act, which we discuss later in this commentary, to clarify beyond doubt that no celebrant who is a minister of religion recognised by a religious body enumerated in Schedule 1, and no celebrant who is a person nominated to solemnise a marriage by an approved organisation, is obliged to solemnise if solemnising that marriage would contravene the religious beliefs of the religious body or the religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions of the approved organisation.
Nice and pragmatic.

The Committee also highlights an issue I'd never considered with current civil union rules:

We wish to highlight an issue brought to our attention by transgender people. At present, married transgender people wanting their sex changed on their birth record (to enable them to fully adopt the gender of their choice) must either divorce their spouse or change their relationship from a marriage to a civil union. We are aware of how distressing this can be for transgender people in this position, and how disruptive it can be for their families. We consider that transgender people should be able to change sex without being subject to these constraints. The bill as consequentially amended would enable any transgender people to continue to
be married regardless of their gender identity

If there are any gay libertarians left in Virginia... you'll get more freedom by emigration than through activism. Make Baby Tiebout smile.

I'm not sure where Poly folks can migrate to. But hopefully the slippery slope in this case is right.

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