With a roaring celebration and a flood of proposals, the Marriage Amendment Bill has passed and New Zealand has become the 13th country in the world to legalise marriage equality.
It has been a journey filled with intense debate and heartfelt yearning; one that has seen the GLBTI community band together once again to fight for the human rights we deserve.
In July 2012 MP Louisa Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot, and so began the intensive campaigning from both sides of the debate.
As we reached each stage of the Bill, the GLBTI community gathered together to show our support, sitting on the edges of our seats to watch our fierce MPs stand up in Parliament and proudly speak on our behalf. At times gritting our teeth and yelling at the TV screens as the opposition expressed their ignorance, we took to social media to share the moment with our community and to vent our frustration.
In August 2012 the bill passed its first reading by 80 votes to 40 and was referred to a Select Committee who considered over 20,000 public submissions. Once that long process was completed the recommendation was that the bill be passed into law.
In March 2013 the Bill passed its second reading with 77 votes to 44 and then went through the Committee Stage, with much heated debate amongst the House in reference to religious freedoms. Despite attempts at further amendment the House rejected all proposals.
Then came the night that none of us will forget, the night we as a community gained the right to marry the person we love irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or sex – and what an amazingly momentous occasion it was!
Before you book that beautiful wedding venue and begin to plan the day of your dreams, make sure to keep in mind that the bill will come in to effect four months after the Governor General signed it, which happened on 19 April. This means when choosing a date for your ceremony you should pick a date after 19 August. It looks like spring and summer weddings will be all the rage this year.
Whether you are planning to walk down the aisle in matching white dresses, rainbow-striped tuxedos or a t-shirt and jandals, it is important to know just what the passing of this bill means for you.
- Any couple that wishes to transfer their civil union to a marriage can do so under Section 18 of the Civil Union Act 2004. The process is simple: it requires filling out the relevant form and presenting it to a registrar or celebrant who will solemnise the marriage with the appropriate wording.
- If you are weighing up the legal differences between a civil union and a marriage, keep in mind that there is not the same recognition of civil unions in some overseas jurisdictions as there is with marriage.
- Under the new law, transgender and intersex people will no longer have to endure difficult and complicated setbacks surrounding marriage. No longer will transgender people be forced to divorce their partner when their ‘official’ gender is changed, as has previously been the case.
- A married couple, whether heterosexual or same-sex, are deemed ‘spouses’ and under the new law qualify as joint applicants for an adoption order.
- Both birth and non-birth parents will have the same status and be legally recognised as such. Both names will be on the child’s birth certificate.
- Both Louisa Wall and Kevin Hague have stated that immigration laws should not be affected by the bill, meaning that a married couple has no more right to citizenship than a civil union couple. Relationships are assessed on the basis of whether they are genuine and stable, rather than on whether the two partners are married.
As a society, we still have a fair way to go to ensure the full equality of all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We still have the pressing issue of extremely high suicide rates amongst GLBTI youth, the state’s refusal to protect the rights of trans* prisoners and discrimination continues to be a daily battle for many.
In spite of the hurdles to still overcome, what we now have is a sense of hope. There is no denying that the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill will have a life-changing impact on our community, whether we choose to marry or not. The important thing is that the choice is now ours to make.
Article | Sarah Murphy. Photo | Rainbow Parliament by Jac Lynch.