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Speech: Te Ururoa Flavell on Marriage Amendment Bill

Wednesday, 17 April 2013 8:43 PM

MARRIAGE (DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE) AMENDMENT BILL
Third Reading
Te Ururoa Flavell, Māori Party, Waiariki

Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker, kia ora tātou.

Can I thank my Treaty partner “Hone” Banks for allowing me to have his final five minutes.

In case there is any doubt, we are talking about the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. This is not the first time that Māori have encountered controversy around the concept of marriage. In 1888 the Supreme Court of New Zealand made a decision that has been described as “doubtful legally and deplorable socially”. That doubtful and deplorable decision was to reject the customary marriages that had existed mai rānō, and to assume that the marriage law of England took precedence.

In fact, the colonial law from another land was considered of such importance that the children of Māori customary marriages were then described as “illegitimate”, yet so significant was the status of customary marriages amongst our people that they continued to be recognised for the purposes of succession to Māori land until 1951.

So when opponents of this bill criticise a change to the definition of marriage as contravening our sacred traditions, I would have to say “Whose traditions are we talking about?”.

I want to bring a specific contribution to this House as a proud uri of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Arawa waka—yeah! In 1849 Wīremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke of Ngāti Rangiwewehi shared his knowledge of our Atua in a publication called Ngā Tama a Rangi. It is one of those stories I want to bring to the House with me today. You, sir, may well have heard the story about Hinemoa and Tūtānekai, a story of love glorified by Victorian settlers, with all the markings of romance. According to tribal law, Hinemoa swam to Mokoia in the middle of Rotorua to be with her true loved one—everybody say “Ah.”

Hon Members: Ah.

But I am going to add an extra part to the story, and tell you instead about Tūtānekai and Tiki. Before Tūtānekai married Hinemoa, he had a close male companion, Tiki. In a manuscript by Te Rangikāheke, Tūtānekai says to his father: “Ka aroha atu a Tūtānekai ki a Tiki, ka mea atu ki a Whakaue: ‘Ka mate ahau i te aroha ki toku hoa, ki a Tiki.’”
Translated: “Tūtānekai loved Tiki and said to Whakaue: ‘I am stricken with love for my friend, for Tiki.’” Later, Tūtānekai refers to Tiki as “tāku hoa takatāpui”.

So, from the wisdom of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, a new word was coined: “takatāpui”, defined in the Dictionary of the Maori Language compiled by the missionary Henry Williams in 1844 as “an intimate companion of the same sex”. “Takatāpui” is now used universally to describe people who might otherwise describe themselves as gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, or intersexual.

This history is set out by a Māori academic—not of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, but nevertheless—Dr Clive Aspin in his analysis of “Hōkakatanga - Māori sexualities”.

The research tracked fast forward to the early 2000s, with the Māori sexuality project undertaken at Auckland University. Many of the respondents to that research were able to recall examples of their kaumātua and kuia talking about people they knew who had same-sex attraction. These people held traditions of importance and status within their whānau and hapū. According to Dr Aspin, they were not rejected or marginalised, and were considered to be valuable members of their communities.

Talking about our history, our shared history in Aotearoa, is really important. We all know another painful history of discrimination, of prejudice, and of homophobia expressed by other members in this House tonight. Young people are in such agony about the way that they live their lives that suicide becomes the only option—a people living in fear and shame, scared of the harassment that they have all too often experienced. Some of the lobbying that every MP has endured over this last nine months has shown us the ugliness of stigma that has been hurled at Louisa Wall—ki a tāku tuahine, ka nui te mihi ki a koe.

So I urge all of us to think deeply about the universal values of aroha, of commitment, of whakawhanaungatanga, of trust, of faith, and of hope—kaupapa tuku iho.

As this third reading comes to an end, I think about tamariki and mokopuna who now know that they do not have to hide the fact that there are two mums in their household, about parents who want to know that their son can marry the man of his dreams and they can be all out and proud on their special day, and about all of our whānau takatāpui who celebrate tonight as a day on which history is made; in which their exceptional love– the love that endures all - is finally able to dare to say its name out loud.

ENDS

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