Church in New Zealand ‘losing the debate’ on gay marriage

Baptist theologian Laurie Guy and broadcaster Ali Mau debate gay marriage on Close Up Source: Close Up

A Baptist theologian has admitted the church is probably losing the debate on gay marriage in New Zealand. Carey Baptist College vice principal Laurie Guy admitted on TV ONE’s Close Up that it is quite likely Christians will just have to accept gay marriage.

He was speaking after a ONE News Colmar Brunton poll revealed nearly two-thirds support for same-sex marriage. Asked if they think same-sex couples should be able to get married, 63% of respondents said yes, 31% said no and 6% did not know or preferred not to say.

Guy said he thinks the church is probably losing the debate on gay marriage, and while this is not inevitable, “I accept that it may be likely”.

It is 26 years since the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was passed and eight years since Parliament legislated for civil unions. Guy said he thinks things are shifting and the fact that US President Barack Obama made a statement last month in support of gay marriage has been a trigger for some of the debate New Zealand is having now. Asked if Christians will just have to accept gay marriage, Guy said, “That’s quite likely, yeah, that’s right.”

‘A basic human rights issue’

Broadcaster Ali Mau has taken a stand to defend gay rights, and as a woman in a gay relationship wants to get married, something she can do overseas but not in New Zealand. Speaking on Close Up in her own right, not representing the entire gay community, Mau said gay marriage is a basic human rights issue, and not just one for New Zealanders.

“There’s a tide of feeling globally about this issue. We’ve seen that demonstrated very clearly in recent months. It’s the fact that I could get married 15 years ago when I married for the first time…and suddenly I can’t marry who I want to marry now. And that seems odd and silly and outdated.”

Mau said the Civil Unions Act is not enough “because it still separates us from you or them, and in New Zealand we don’t believe in being separated into different tribes. We’re all one people why shouldn’t we have the same rights?”

Mau said she was educated in a Baptist school and respects Guy’s viewpoint, “but I just don’t believe the church is going to win this one because the tide is against them.” But Guy says gays can have all the rights in other ways.

After Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage last month, Prime Minister John Key also said he is personally not opposed to the idea of gay marriage.

Some MPs want the issue to be debated in Parliament, but a bill will have to be drawn out of the ballot before that can happen. Key said he might vote for the first reading of a gay marriage bill but would not introduce a bill himself.

“Some member is going to bring that in and it’s going to get drawn out of the ballot. But personally I’m not opposed. There’ll be a range of views of course but let’s have the debate,” Key said.

‘The climate is ready’

OUTline general manager Timothy McMichael believes New Zealanders will accept gay marriage. “I think the climate is ready now for the introduction of same sex marriage into New Zealand,” he told ONE News.

Green Party list MP Holly Walker had a civil union last year, choosing not to get married because the option isn’t available for homosexual couples. “We didn’t want to be part of an institution that our gay friends and family couldn’t be part of. And so because civil unions are open to all kinds of couples, that seemed an appropriate choice,” Walker said.

The Catholic church remains staunchly opposed to gay marriage. “The whole idea of marriage seems to be associated with the procreation and raising of children and that’s a relationship that requires a man and a woman,” said Patrick Dunn, the Catholic Bishop of Auckland.

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