27 Feb 2013

Same-sex marriage step closer to becoming law

10:36 pm on 27 February 2013

The sponsor of a bill to allow same-sex marriage says she is quietly confident it will become law.

The Government Administration Committee is recommending that Labour MP Louisa Wall's bill - which would allow two people to marry regardless of their sex or sexual orientation - be passed into law.

Some 18,000 submissions were received on the bill, with 10,487 in support and 8148 against.

The committee also recommends that the bill clarifies that no religious celebrant would be obliged to solemnise a marriage if that would go against the church's beliefs.

Louisa Wall said on Wednesday she would be taking that message to churches within her electorate, which expressed worries they would be forced to conduct same-sex marriages.

Ms Wall said there had been a high level of engagement in the debate and is looking forward to the bill's second reading, which will again be subject to a conscience vote by MPs.

The bill's first reading got 80 votes in favour and 40 against. Ms Wall is optimistic it will get passed and believes it is an important step towards achieving a fairer, more equal New Zealand.

The Campaign for Marriage Equality says the amendment protecting religious celebrants should calm some of the fears of those who have opposed the change.

The pastor of the Manukau New Life Church said the amendment is a relief for pastors who don't want to marry same-sex couples. However, Stephen Miller said it is a small win for those who believe the bill would devalue traditional marriage.

The bill is due back before the House for its second reading on 13 March. If passed, amendments will be made to the Adoption Act so that married same-sex couples can adopt children as any married couple may do.