Waikato Times

Bennett changes his vote on same-sex marriage

With feedback evenly split, the MP says it was a tough call. By Jonathan Carson.

- Jonathan.carson@waikatotim­es.co.nz

David Bennett was the only MP in the country to switch from opposing marriage equality to supporting it when the historic vote was cast this week.

The Hamilton East National MP voted against the Marriage Amendment Bill at its first two readings but, at the final reading on Wednesday night, he changed his mind and voted for it. The bill passed 77 votes to 44. So, why the change of heart? ‘‘I listened carefully to everybody’s speeches and all the readings and also the public and the constituen­ts for their feedback to me, which has been very valuable,’’ Mr Bennett said.

‘‘It’s a really hard one. I understand and appreciate both sides of the argument but . . . we have the legislativ­e definition of marriage, there’s a group of people that wanted to be part of that definition and it seemed appropriat­e, from a legislativ­e point of view, that we make that change.

‘‘That’s really what swayed me in the end.’’

Mr Bennett said a referendum would have been the best way to make a decision and that feedback in Hamilton East had been ‘‘evenly divided’’.

‘‘There will be some people who will appreciate what I’ve done and some people who won’t. That’s the nature of the beast I guess.

‘‘I personally still think everybody should have had a say in it.’’

Mr Bennett was also concerned bout the unfairness of adoption rules. Samesex couples who get married will now be able to adopt but single people will not.

‘‘I think that still hasn’t been sorted in the bill, but you know legislatio­n that goes through Parliament is not always perfect, so sometimes you’ve just got to go for the legislatio­n even though you know it’s got a few hiccups in it.’’

The only other MP to change course at the final reading was Te Tai Tonga Labour MP Rino Tirikatene. After voting for the bill at the first two readings, he voted against it at the final reading. ‘‘I considered a range of issues, I pondered long and hard on it’’ before making a decision, Mr Tirikatene said.

He supported wider debate on the bill but, when amendments to further protect religious freedoms were voted down, he began to rethink his position.

‘‘Primarily I didn’t see this as an equality issue. To me, marriage is between a man and a woman.’’ Hamilton West National MP Tim Macindoe voted against the bill at all three readings and Labour MP Sue Moroney voted for it.

‘‘There will be some people that will appreciate what I’ve done and some people that won’t. That’s the nature of the beast I guess. I personally still think everybody should have had a say in it.’’ David Bennett

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