Marriage equality and the “protecting existing religious freedoms” derail

Louisa Wall’s Private Member’s Bill on marriage equality is now out – huzzah!  Check out the link to NRT for the pdf.

However, before it came out, I was a little concerned about this statement, also reported at NRT, from David Cunliffe:

… Louisa Wall is arranging a Marriage Equality member’s bill which progresses human rights while protecting existing religious freedoms.

Emphasis my own.  NRT provided some legal smackdown of this [happily uneventuated] idea – whatever form it may have taken – but even though we now know we’re in the clear for the time being, I wanted to address this whole embarrassing derail on its own.

First up:  it’s a seriously embarrassing derailLike I’ve covered, marriage-as-recognised-by-the-state has sweet fuck all to do with religion, except in its origins.  Marriages don’t have to take place in a religious site.  Marriages don’t have to have the authorised representative of any particular sky-father or earth-mother present.  Marriage does not have to involve any acknowledgement of any supernatural, spiritual or non-legal ritual concepts whatsoever.

Marriage, as far as our Department of Internal Affairs is concerned, involves two people of different sexes, plus state-recognised celebrant, plus witnesses, plus paperwork, saying:

“I AB take you, CD, to be my legal wife/husband” or words to similar effect.

That’s basically it.

So when two angry internet atheists who devote half their free time to creating hilarious Flying Spaghetti Monster macros and filing injunctions against the teaching of creationism decide to get state recognition of their rutting, guess whose religious freedoms are imposed upon?  Oh right, no one’s.  Because no one is forced to officiate anyone’s marriage.  No church or temple is forced to let them make a booking.  No synagogue kitchen is forced to let their caterers prepare pig on a spit.

So what fucking difference is it going to make if those two atheists are both men, or both women, or both genderqueer?

Oh right, it’s not.

It’s the second thing:  giving bigots legislative excuses for their bigotry.

As Idiot/Savant has stated, you know what?  Marriage celebrants who hate The Gays will probably make it abundantly clear and thus not be put in any position where they are compelled to perform the marriage.  Just like how racist fuckheads who are currently marriage celebrants can currently turn away interracial couples – and even though said action might be entirely illegal because of that pesky Bill of Rights we have, I think we all know how easily that gets circumvented.  Maybe the celebrant is just “too busy”, or “they’re taking a break” or they happen to innocuously have a White Pride flag on the roof of their car.

The point is, we don’t have marriage legislation saying “You are allowed to turn away interracial couples if being a racist asshat is so important to you.”

And we shouldn’t have it when we grant marriage equality to people in non-binary-conforming relationships.

Because it has only two purposes:

1)  Make religious people – predominantly the vocal fundy Christian minority who like to put themselves centre-stage on every issue – feel like they’re super-important, the foundation of our society, far more influential than they have any right to be;

2)  Protect them from the consequences of their bigotry.  It’d be like appending “and also no one can call out your bullshit if you’re Paul Henry” to the right to freedom of speech.

If you want to be a kyriarchal douchebag, and that just isn’t so acceptable in our culture any more, and someone says “Wow, you won’t marry a same-sex couples?  What a douche” then you can take it like a fucking adult.  I mean, you’re the one with all the certainty, the one who knows that what you’re doing is good and correct and God’s work, right?  So what does it matter to you if people think you’re a dick?

Why, basically, do you need a bit of paper from the state – the state which clearly doesn’t give a toss about your views on what constitutes marriage and hasn’t for years – so you can wave it in people’s faces and say “SHUT UP, MY BIGOTRY IS OKAY, THE LAW SAYS SO!”

I mean, you’ve already got freedom of religion.  And some of us quite like how that gives us freedom from religion.  Which is why the state doesn’t limit marriage to only the people the Pope or whoever says are proper married.

Oh look, we’ve come full circle.

Now, we were discussing this on Twitter and the point was made by Lew that hey, if the Bill is 99% good we can probably handle the 1% bad, and would this kind of provision protecting religious bigots really have much effect on non-het marriages?  Like I said above, it’s not like non-het couples will have difficulty identifying the bigoted celebrants.

And I can kind of get behind that.  But my immediate concern – and maybe I’ve just been watching too much West Wing recently – is that religious fundies are not a group known for their ability to compromise.  I’m sure they’ll happily take a little favour, a little cushion to cover their asses while spreading the hate love of Jesus around the world, but please, David C, anyone else out there, let’s not pretend for a fucking second that these people are going to offer you any other kind of support, votes or otherwise, until the next time they want to wrangle another concession out of you.

It’s not actually anything to do with the social good of promoting freedom of religion, and it’s not actually anything to do with making our sloooooooow transformation into a truly openminded, progressive country any easier on the resistant throwbacks.  It’s about undermining progress at every step, leaving loopholes and back doors for them to slip more regressive, life-destroying crap into our cultural consciousness any chance they get.

Don’t give into their crap now – and like I’ve just explained above, it is crap – in the hopes they’ll give up anything they didn’t already know they were going to.


NB:  I am in full agreement with the ever-so-clever Amanda on using the phrase “marriage equality” instead of “gay marriage” and will be using such in future.


  1. Mr Wainscotting


    Finally dragging the outdated Marriage Act in line with the Human Rights Act, the UDHR and the Yogyakarta Principles.

    Between this and the WTF campaign, what a time for me to take a break from blogging >.<

  2. Craig

    It’s just a damned shame that we can’t persuade central government to get the Christian Right’s rosaries off your ovaries 🙂 at the same time and decriminalise abortion once and for all. Enough of the bully pulpit within NZ politics, period.