Council first to back gay marriage
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.