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Baldock: Parliament to be tested on Marriage Bill

Friday, 22 July 2005

Baldock: Parliament to be tested on Marriage Bill

Parliament will face an important test as to whether it values marriage next Wednesday when it debates his Member's Bill that would ensure marriage could only be entered into by a man and a woman, United Future's Larry Baldock said today.

His Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Marriage Act to ensure that it is quite explicit that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman, a position upheld by the Court of Appeal in 1997 when it refused permission for three same-sex couples to marry.

However, the judges noted that their interpretation of the Marriage Act relied on old common law principles, stating that it was not the role of the court to change the intention of the Act.

Mr Baldock said that his Bill was an important point of clarification given recent developments.

"Parliament has been surprisingly hesitant to clarify this matter, and the debate over the civil union legislation passed at the end of last year has left a lot of ambiguity," he said.

"The Marriage Act is still open to legal challenge and could conceivably be overturned at some stage. All I am asking is that if politicians believe marriage should only be between a man and woman, that Parliament codify it as such."

Labour, the Greens and the Progressive Coalition have indicated that they will oppose the Bill, he said,

"However, the Labour caucus may permit some courageous MPs to cross the floor.

The Prime Minister has said it is a waste of Parliament's time to codify common law.

"She obviously thought differently on this principle when the Government acted on the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, which also codified a common law position," Mr Baldock said.

Marriage as an institution dear to the hearts of the vast majority of the population deserved similar treatment, he said.

"Failure to clarify the law will leave it vulnerable. It is almost certain that those who want full same-sex marriage legalised in New Zealand will mount a challenge. As some overseas courts have already overturned the common law position, there is no guarantee it will not happen here."

Mr Baldock questioned the real agenda of MPs if they don't support the Bill. "Are they hoping that the courts will do what they would like to but fear to promote publicly?

"This is a chance for Parliament to prove once and for all that it values marriage and supports families," Mr Baldock said.


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