By Lloyd Burr
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his party will abstain from voting on the same-sex marriage bill and is calling for a referendum instead.
His party’s stance on the issue was unclear last week but they decided their position during a caucus meeting this morning.
Mr Peters says he is calling for a referendum because he doesn’t have confidence MPs can make the right decision.
“NZ First’s position has always been that these serious issues should be decided by the public of this country and not a few temporary empowered politicians,” he says.
Mr Peters was asked: “So all NZ First MPs will abstain from voting?”
“I’ve just said that, that’s what our position is and we are united on that,” he replied.
He wouldn’t rule out his party voting down the bill instead of abstaining but said they definitely wouldn’t vote in favour of it.
The veteran MP wouldn’t divulge his own opinion on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to get married because it would “twist the public debate”.
However, one of his MPs last week told reporters he was against same-sex marriage because it was about “preserving the institution of marriage”.
“I’ve got nothing against gays but to me, marriage is an important institution of its own,” MP Richard Prosser said.
Conservative Party leader Colin Craig - who is not an MP - also wants a referendum on the issue. He says he is against the idea of gay marriage because homosexuals have shorter life-spans and aren't good role models for children.