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Speech Christians for Civil Unions at Parliament

Human Rights Rally at Parliament. 11: 45 a.m. August 23, 2004

Speech by Margaret Mayman, Spokesperson for Christians for Civil Unions

We are here today to stand up for human rights. And rights for gay and lesbian people are human rights, not special rights, just equal rights. We are here to affirm the rights of all New Zealanders to legal protection and social respect for their relationships.

This is a justice issue and we stand as New Zealanders to ask parliament to enact the Civil Union Bill and the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill so we may indeed have justice for all.

Some of are here because we are Christian and we are appalled that others who call themselves Christian are distorting our faith by opposing the movement towards social justice for gay and lesbian people and their families.

The Destiny march is titled "Enough is Enough." This is our tradition, stolen and used against us, especially against those of us who are gay and lesbian. "Enough is enough" is the call of the Old Testament prophets to critique the power abusers. "Enough is enough" returns us to the core of radical, real Christianity. The prophet Ezekiel spoke the word "Enough" to the religious and political leaders not about civil unions but rather he said: "Put away violence and oppression and do what is just and right."

God is love and God cares about and honours the love between gay partners and within our families. We need legal protection, to be treated equally under the law and have next of kin status for our partners.

But legal protection is not enough‹there must also be opportunity for public commitment with friends and family and social recognition from the community.

Civil Unions will provide a choice for different sex couples who want to make a commitment to one another but who do not, for whatever reason, want to get married.

But let's face the reality here. Opposition to civil unions is not about different sex de facto couples. Opposition to civil unions is almost entirely about homophobia. Opposition to civil unions sends a message to gay and lesbian people that we do not matter, that our relationships do not contribute to the social fabric of Aoteaora, that we do not deserve respect. The social costs of homophobia, like any prejudice, are enormous.

We who are Christian are tired of hearing the Bible and the God of love used to bash gay and lesbian people. The Bible is a document of its time. It is not a book of rules. It the story of people of faith discerning who they are and how they are to live in relationship with God one another‹and over and over again‹the enduring command of God to us in the Bible speaks to us of love, compassion, justice and peace.

Nobody living now can interpret the Bible literally. The earth is not flat. Women are not the property of men. We do not keep slaves. People who quite the Bible against homosexuality ignore all the scientific evidence that homosexuality is part of creation. And of creation, we are told that "God saw that it was good."

But the Bible does show us what God wants for us in the person of Jesus , who broke the rules of his religion, who challenged the oppressive powers of the state, who welcomed and broke bread with anyone who was committed to living God's way of love.

So we Christians who gather for human rights follow the path of non-violent resistance against the powers of oppression and violence. It is the path of Jesus resisting the abuses of religious and political power. It is the path followed by Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr who dreamed of a world without racial prejudice. We are the people who hold on to the dream.

On its website Destiny Church has a quotation from Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr which says "our lives begin to end the day we are silent about the things that matter."

We now know that Destiny Church wrote to the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, asking for an endorsement for their march on parliament.

I have the text of the letter the King Center sent back to Destiny.

"Greetings. Unfortunately we cannot issue a statement regarding this (event). On top of that, one of Dr. King's closest advisor (Bayard Rustin) was gay and Dr. King did not believe in what was done to him and how he was treated here in the US at the time. For these reasons and many more--we cannot issue any sort of statement that would condone putting someone else's spirit and dignity down in favor of another. "

The memory and the vision of Martin Luther King is with us today, not with Destiny Church. Coretta Scott King, Dr King's widow, is a strong supporter of equal rights for gay and lesbian people. She quoted her husband on the destiny of justice: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are all tied together in a single garment of destinyŠ I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be." Mrs King has added her words: "I appeal to everyone who believes in Marin Luther King's dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."

We are the people of the dream of peace.

We are the people of the dream of justice.

And we shall overcome!


Rev. Dr. Margaret Mayman St. Andrew's on The Terrace P. O. Box 5203 Wellington New Zealand

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