A friend of mine at school and I run a human rights group at lunchtime once a fortnight. The first one asked if New Zealand should be in Afghanistan. I took the Hawk position, and my friend was the Dove. I’m not much of a Hawk, but we’re trying to get both sides out in the debate. I borrowed a quote by Dante that John F. Kennedy liked to use:
the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis maintain their neutrality
and then showed them the hooks at the end of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 28: Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
If everyone is entitled, then shouldn’t we – who signed up to the UDHR – act to protect the rights of others?
On the whole, no, was the answer from the students. About two-thirds of the students thought we should withdraw our troops.
On other issues however many seemed keen to act.
Our debate this Tuesday was: “Is gay marriage (a) right?”
Tonight in parliament the first reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill took place.
This Bill will make it clear that a marriage is a union of two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It will ensure that all people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose. Marriage, as a social institution, is a fundamental human right and limiting that human right to 1 group in society only does not allow for equality. This Bill will ensure that there is equality for people wishing to marry regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and will be in accordance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993.
In 1986 the Homosexual Law Reform Act passed in New Zealand which decriminalised homosexuality. For the students in the human rights group homosexuality has been legal for their whole lives, and not a single student in the room could see why gay marriage would be a problem. My friend told them that there was a march to parliament on Wednesday to support the Bill, and I am pleased to say that quite a few of them went. As a group we decided that we would write a submission to the select committee once the Bill reaches that stage.
I watched the debate on TV tonight. The Bill passed its first reading 80-40.
One National MP who stood up to speak for his constituents in the Wairarapa said darkly that the Bill was another example of Labour’s reforming social agenda. I think he’s right. However, I strongly believe that it is the duty of government to ensure that minorities are not discriminated against. Where there is discrimination there should be reform. It is not the duty of government to debate religion.