A bill to legalize marriage for same-sex couples on Aug. 29 passed the first of three readings in the New Zealand parliament by a margin of two to one, creating the likelihood of passage into law early next year.
Faith groups stated their positions on the issue after the vote.
New Zealand’s Roman Catholic bishops reaffirmed their opposition to redefining marriage. “To propose any alternative definition will have implications in law, and family structure which throughout history has been seen as the fundamental unit in every society,” Archbishop John Dew said.
However, in Auckland, Anglican parish St. Matthews-in-the-City has erected a billboard, portraying the top of a wedding cake with two bride dolls kissing. It states, “We don’t care who’s on top.”
Vicar Glynn Cardy said he considers commitment more important than gender, and welcomes removal of the barrier of sexual orientation from the requirement for a church wedding. “Such prejudice is contrary to the good news of Jesus Christ,” he said.
But Anglican bishops say they do care “who’s on top.”
“The billboard is a confusing message trading on cliches that I don’t think St Matthew’s actually stands for,” Auckland Bishop Jim White said.
Former Presbyterian minister David Clark, currently a Labour Party legislator, spoke in support of the bill. “I suspect [Jesus] would say that marriage is frequently paraded by those who claim a Christian viewpoint is really a thinly veiled defense of Victorian morality,” he told Parliament.
However AFFIRM, a conservative Presbyterian group, dismissed supportive views of Presbyterians as “isolated voices,” saying same sex marriage was “spiritually offensive” to many Christian people.
New Zealand already has in place same-sex civil union laws that confer many legal rights to gay couples. Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in the Netherlands, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Several other countries, including France, Scotland and Australia, are considering making it legal.