NEW Zealand’s Parliament is set to vote on two high-profile and emotive issues in two days.
Tomorrow evening the first reading of a bill allowing gay marriage will be held, a debate Prime Minister John Key said would get “very emotionally charged” and could see a lot of correspondence from constituents.
“There will be a deluge of email campaigns both ways on this issue,” Fairfax NZ reported him as saying.
It is thought the bill has enough support to pass, with some MPs understood to have privately indicated supported but are not keen to go public with their views for fear of a backlash or attracting strong lobbying.
As the debate progresses the issue is set to heat up, with emails already sent to MPs referring to “destructive homosexual political cult”, the “gay mafia” and even suggest the bill is “about legalised child abuse”.
“You do not know that there [is a] silent majority who do not support gay marriage. Human rights do not equal marriage rights,” one email said.
Others in support of the bill cite equal opportunities regardless of sexuality.
“The vast majority of Kiwis . . . know it’s time for full equality for gay and lesbian Kiwis and they want to finally see their friends enjoy the same rights as them,” a supporter says.
Green MP Kevin Hague, who is gay, said few of those writing against gay marriage presented reasoned arguments, or anything new to the debate.
Some amounted to “an expression of a view with a bit of menace attached”, he said.
He was used to debating the issue, but said those newer to Parliament may find it tough to deal with.
A second conscience bill on the alcohol purchase age is also before MPs later in the week.
MPs will get to vote for the age to go up to 20; move to a split age of 18 at bars and pubs and 20 at bottle stores and supermarkets or to remain at 18 at all outlets.
MPs may get the unusual chance to vote on all three options simultaneously, with the least popular dropping out for a final run-off between the two remaining options.
“There is an argument that says at 19, you’d be old enough to go off to the local bar and have a beer but if you decide to pick up a six-pack on the way to a BBQ you’re not going to be legally allowed to do that,” he said.
“I can understand the merits of why that seems a slightly odd position to be in but it’s really about trying to say – look, we’re trying to make a number of potential moves overall to try and reduce heavy binge drinking by very young people.”
IMAGE: Queereaster via Wikimedia Commons