Pacific leaders call meeting to debate same-sex marriage bill

Pacific leaders in Auckland say their communities need to publicly debate the same-sex marriage bill to counter fears it will undermine Pacific churches and traditional values.

Labour's Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su'a William Sio has called on fellow south Auckland MP Louisa Wall to withdraw her bill because it is causing deep divisions in Pacific communities that could cost votes.

The Marriage Amendment Bill has been drawn from the members' ballot in Parliament and a conscience vote is expected when it comes before House.

The Reverend Uesifili Unasa, who chairs the Auckland Council's Pacific advisory panel, saysthere is a lot of misunderstanding and fear being stirred up about the bill.

He says Pacific communities hold a wide range of views on same-sex marriage and should debate the bill openly.

The first of the public meetings will be held on Monday night. One of the organisers, Peseta Betty Sio of the Pacific Islands Safety and Violence Prevention Project, says despite claims that Pacific communities don't support the bill, no-one really knows what they will or won't support.

Ms Sio says Pacific communities need to talk about what same-sex marriage equality really means and the churches need to explain why they oppose it.

She hopes the public debate will go beyond the same-sex marriage bill to look at the treatment of gay and lesbian Pacific people.

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