By Lloyd Burr
Hundreds of people descended on Parliament this afternoon in a bid to convince the Government to legalise same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
Currently, same-sex couples can get a civil union but cannot get married and as a couple, cannot adopt children but individually, they can.
Today’s protest was organised by Joseph Habgood, president of the Legalise Love campaign, and made its way from Wellington’s civic square, along Lambton Quay and up to Parliament.
- Click on the video tab to watch extended footage of the march
Mr Habgood says for many of those who turned up, it was their first march and says he was pleased with the turnout and support.
He says gay marriage is becoming “less and less of a controversial issue” and “recent polling shows six out of 10 New Zealanders support it”.
“The most common response from people is, ‘What? Isn’t it already legal?’ Sure, people don’t know what the law is, but it speaks to the fact that people really think that the law should be the other way and they are surprised by the fact that it’s not.”
Mr Habgood says the current law is a barrier to diversity and acceptance.
“We are here today because the symbolism of Parliament saying that all love is not equal is unacceptable and incredibly dangerous because that message filters down through society and manifests itself in supremely ugly ways,” he says.
Labour MP Maryan Street says Labour, which introduced civil unions when they were last in Government, has unfinished business when it comes to the issue.
“We would like to take the public with us on these issues. We think the time is right, the number of young people coming along and picking up these issues shows us that there is a new generation with a different approach to these things.
“So as social opinion shifts, we would like to go with that social opinion and lead it if necessary.”
Ms Street says she knows Labour’s plans will be met with opposition.
“Family First will not agree with us on these matters but when you focus on the care of children and who is best able to provide the best quality care for children, then most New Zealanders get that, they understand that and they don’t polarise into extreme positions,” she says.
“It’s about equality, it’s about safety, particularly for young people growing up and it’s about dignity. Those are the very basic positions that the Labour Party has on gay rights.
The protest also had the support from Fionnaigh McKenzie from St Andrews on the Terrace who says she looks forward to “celebrating another milestone in our country’s history when we achieve equality for non-heterosexual New Zealanders”.
“As a Christian, I believe we must challenge all forms of injustice, including discriminatory laws. We can create a more inclusive society where all families are supported and given equal opportunities,” she says.
Mr Habgood says with support from the church, “it is clear that homophobia is quickly running out of hiding places”.