Coun­cil first to back gay mar­riage

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Gay mar­riage has been en­dorsed by Porirua City Coun­cil, in de­fi­ance of Pa­cific church lead­ers who pleaded with coun­cil­lors to back away from the de­bate.

The coun­cil, be­lieved to be the first in New Zealand to take a stance on gay mar­riage, voted to sup­port equal ac­cess to mar­riage for all New Zealan­ders last week.

Coun­cil­lor Litea Ah Hoi broke ranks with her fel­low Pa­cific coun­cil­lors to back same-sex mar­riage, say­ing she spoke for Porirua’s in­vis­i­ble community of gay Poly­ne­sians ‘‘ sit­ting there silently, too scared to speak up be­cause they will be ab­so­lutely ham­mered by our reli­gious lead­ers’’.

Wayne Poutoa and Faafoi Seiuli, along­side deputy mayor Liz Kelly, op­posed the en­dorse­ment at Thurs­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, while Tim Shep­pard and Bron­wyn Kropp ab­stained from vot­ing.

Mr Shep­pard said he per­son­ally sup­ported gay mar­riage but the is­sue was ir­rel­e­vant to coun­cil.

The re­main­ing seven coun­cil­lors, plus mayor Nick Leggett, voted to en­dorse gay mar­riage. Coun­cil­lor Ken Dou­glas was not present.

Le­gal­is­ing gay mar­riage is a step on the road to tol­er­ance and could help elim­i­nate bul­ly­ing against ho­mo­sex­u­als, said coun­cil­lor ’Ana Cof­fey.

‘‘What re­ally wor­ries me for my friends in the gay community is there’s bul­ly­ing and dis­crimi- na­tion. Peo­ple are get­ting beaten up for lov­ing some­one of the same sex.’’

Be­ing Chris­tian only strength­ened her re­solve to ad­vo­cate for the marginalised, she said.

‘‘The Je­sus I fol­low put aside moral and cul­tural con­ven­tions of his day. For me this is about equal­ity and re­spect.’’

The is­sue is rel­e­vant to coun­cil, be­cause the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act of 2002 re­quires coun­cils to pro­mote the so­cial and cul­tural well­be­ing of the community, Ms Cof­fey said.

A dozen Pa­cific church lead­ers who at­tended the de­bate were rep­re­sented by the Rev­erend Nove Vailaau, from Wai­tan­girua’s Con­gre­ga­tional Chris­tian Church of Samoa.

Church min­is­ters are wor­ried they will be legally forced to marry gay cou­ples against their will, Mr Vailaau said.

‘‘My first re­sponse was ‘over my dead body’.’’

While he would ac­cept and love any child of his who was gay, mar­riage is about pro­cre­ation and should be re­stricted to het­ero­sex­u­als, Mr Vailaau said.

Samoan fam­i­lies who live in multi­gen­er­a­tional house­holds par­tic­u­larly value God’s gift of chil­dren.

‘‘ The community don’t just at­tend a le­gal com­ing to­gether of two peo­ple, they go to pray for the con­tin­u­a­tion of God’s cre­ation of hu­man­ity.’’

Coun­cil­lor Litea Ah Hoi said there was no ques­tion of min­is­ters be­ing forced to marry gay cou­ples.

‘‘Le­gal mar­riage does not have to take place in a reli­gious place, or in front of a reli­gious min­is­ter.’’

Samoan cul­ture em­braces fa’fafine, loosely equiv­a­lent to gay men, so should al­low them to be legally mar­ried, Ms Ah Hoi said. ‘‘We ac­cept them as part of our fam­i­lies be­cause they’re part and par­cel of who we are, and we love them. We’d treat them ex­actly the same.’’

Pukerua Bay equal­ity ad­vo­cate Hugh Young says he is over­joyed to get an en­dorse­ment from such an un­ex­pected quar­ter.

Bul­ly­ing and youth sui­cide plague the young gay and les­bian com­mu­ni­ties, so any sup­port was wel­come, he said.

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