The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

On Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand

Cross posted
I was a young student at university when Fran Wilde’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill was introduced to the House in 1985. Back then, over quarter of a century ago, it caused an uproar. And back then, as now, groups sprang up in support of the bill. I recall one group in particular: HUG, or Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays.

I was puzzled by HUG. Why did one need to assert one’s heterosexuality in order to support decriminalising consenting homosexual sex between men aged 16 or over? I thought that a person who was truly unafraid of gay men wouldn’t need to run up a banner to declare themselves straight.

I see the matter a little differently now. Perhaps it’s just the passage of time, and the sky hasn’t fallen. Perhaps it’s because I have come to realise just how malleable sexuality can be. Perhaps it’s because I have been happily ensconced in a monogamous relationship with a man for so long now that I am very secure in own identity as a straight woman. Perhaps it’s because New Zealand society as a whole is much more accepting of difference. To me, there is no great import to declaring my sexuality. It just is, and that’s all there is to it.

But of course, I am free to say that, without consequence, because my sexuality is accepted, and acknowledged, and even valorised by our society. What I see now is the great need for people like me, straight, accepted, acknowledged, valorised, to stand up and say that it is important to work to create the same possibilities for all people in our society. Not just say it quietly in the privacy of our homes, but OUT LOUD, in public. There are no consequences for me declaring my sexuality: there can be enormous consequences for the boy in Stratford, the woman in Hokitika, the lad in his first job labouring on a farm, the girl sitting in the pews every Sunday listening to homophobia because her parents make her go to church. We need to shout, as loud as we can, that there is a massive amount of support for gay and lesbian New Zealanders, to have exactly the same rights and privileges as New Zealanders who are straight. A huge number of people who are straight support marriage equality, and support people who are lesbian and gay, just because. And that’s all there is to it.

That’s why I’m part of Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s part of the shouting and clamouring and agitating for change.

In a perfect world, I’d be looking for really extensive change to our marriage laws, so that they worked for bisexual and polyamorous people too. But I’m not about to let the perfect defeat the good. While my longterm ideal is for people to be able to form households and homes and marriages in whatever configuration they like, with the support of the state, I will at least support and work for this particular change, that people who are gay or lesbian can enjoy the same rights as people who are straight. It’s a start.

If you’re on Facebook, you might like to like Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand.

15 responses to “On Straights for Marriage Equality in Aotearoa New Zealand

  1. Hugh August 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    “I’d be looking for really extensive change to our marriage laws, so that they worked for bi-sexual and polyamorous people to”

    I’m generally on board with your post but this little bit confused me. While I can see a way that, even with same-sex marriage, our current laws don’t serve polyamorous people well, how would bisexual people still be left out if same-sex marriage was possible?

  2. MJ August 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    “In a perfect world, I’d be looking for really extensive change to our marriage laws, so that they worked for bi-sexual and polyamorous people too.”

    Bisexual, no hyphen.

    And I absolutely agree that it would be great for our laws to protect polyamorous relationships. But… why will the same-sex marriage amendment not protect people who are bisexual? (Or pansexual, or queer, or any number of other possibilites……….). The wording of the bill specifically states that marriage will be between any two adults who freely consent.

    Bisexual =/= polyamorous. Why do I have to explain this on a feminist blog? =|

    • Deborah August 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      Bi-sexual / bisexual. Fixed. Thank you.

      You don’t have to explain it on a feminist blog. I know that polyamory and bisexuality are not the same thing. All I had in mind was that because bisexuality is not well accepted, probably even less so than being gay or lesbian, that it was good to talk about it in this context. Partly I don’t want to contribute to the on-going invisibilisation of people who are bisexual. Partly I have in mind that bisexual people may require more fluidity than our marriage laws currently have, and that simply extending the law so that it encompasses people who are lesbian and gay may not work as well for people who are bisexual.

      • MJ August 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm

        I guess I’m struggling to see where you’re coming from, as a pansexual woman. The law is being extended so that any two adults who freely and willingly consent (outside of incestuous relations) can get married. That’s not just “extending the la so that it encompasses people who are lesbian and gay”. It’s extending the law to encompass ALL sexualities. I’m just confused as to why you don’t think this law is going to work as well for people who are bisexual? Or pansexual, or queer, or a number of other possibilities that are not gay, straight, or lesbian?

        • Deborah August 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm

          My thought was that a person who is bisexual (Z) may wish to have a committed relationship / marriage with a person of the same sex (A), and a committed relationship / marriage with a person of a different sex (B), but while A and B are each happy to be in a committed relationship / marriage with Z, they may not wish to be in a committed relationship with each other. I was thinking of polyamorous marriage as being a contractual relationship where all the parties are equally committed to each other, which is a little different from the set of linked relationships that A, B and Z have. So extending the law to include polyamorous groups might still not achieve the sort of structure that will work for people who are bisexual.

          I haven’t tried to talk about pansexuality because TBH, your use of it was the first time I’ve come across it. I find it confusing, because I don’t quite get how it handles sexuality identity vs gender identity. NB: that doesn’t mean that I think that the term is wrong or anything like that. It just means that the term is so new to me that it will take me some time to understand it, and work out how to use it, and how to incorporate it into my thinking. I’ve done the obvious thing and googled it and read some of the things that come up on google, but it will still take a bit of time to develop an understanding of it.

          • MJ August 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

            Okay, there might be a misunderstanding of terms then, because what you’re describing is definitely polyamory. But Z could just as easily want to be in a committed relationship/marriage with two people of the same gender (whether that’s Z’s own gender or a different one) who do not also want to be in a committed relationship to each other. Z is still polyamorous (although A and B might not be) but they are not necessarily bisexual/pansexual/queer. Look at, for example, religions and cultures that practice polygamy — a Mormon man may have several wives who are all committed to him, and while they’re a family unit, they’re not in a relationship with each other. That Mormon man is most likely straight, and his sexuality has nothing to do with the fact that he is a practicing polygamist.

          • Hugh August 12, 2012 at 11:12 am

            @Deborah: That seems to be more of an issue of concern to polyamorists, not bisexuals.

          • Moz August 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

            Deborah, I’m not sure marriage laws could be made to formally encompass that scenario, regardless of the sexualities involved. I suspect A and B would need to formalise their relationship somehow, at the very least to say that they knew of each other and consented to the multiple marriages of Z. Failing that you’d have legalised bigamy, which is (AFAIK) one of the things marriage laws are specifically there to prevent.

            Bisexuals come in all sorts of flavours, and pansexuals even more so. I know a fair few married bisexuals, and their usual problem is invisibility. But the two-spouse law actually works reasonably well for many of us, because we’re monogamous. And serial monogamy is what the current law is designed to support.

            For monogamous pansexuals the problem is (AFAIK) not the marriage law per se, but the broader question of legal gender. “I can get married as a man, or as a woman” is not helpful, but then “I can get a passport as a man, or as a woman” is also problematic. Not to mention “I can use public toilets as a man, or as a woman” because to date I’ve only seen one non-disabled toilet that could be said to accommodate pansexuals (labelled “other”). I suspect the latter is a more urgent problem.

          • Hugh August 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm

            @Moz: Aren’t you confusing “pansexual” with “genderqueer”? Pansexual people are people who are attracted to people who don’t fit into the male/female dichotomy, but they are not necessarily outside that dichotomy. You can be a male or female pansexual.

  3. Hugh August 11, 2012 at 3:46 am

    @Deborah: The thing is, this isn’t about “extending the law to encompass people who are lesbian and gay”. It extends the law to encompass people who want to marry people of the same sex.

    I wonder what you are envisaging by thinking that bisexual people require a “fluidity” in marriage laws?

  4. Annanonymous August 12, 2012 at 8:56 am

    HUG does seem a bit bemusing and quaint with the benefit of hindsight. The bit that gets me is the ‘unafraid’. It seemed to cede some ground to bigots’ more successful tactic of equating gays with the public fear of AIDS that was very strong at the time of Law Reform. I share your unease with asserting my heterosexuality as I support marriage equality – but maybe it’s a political accommmodation to be made on the road to different and better social understandings of sexuality? HUG had the subtheme ‘gay is OK because straight people say it is’, but I hope it had value as a gesture of solidarity to the incredibly embattled queer campaigners of the time!

  5. Moz August 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    @Hugh: you’re right. Substitute “to a woman, or to a man”. I’m easily confused mostly from knowing too many non-genderqueer pansexuals so the descriptions tend to blur if I’m not careful. And they seem to be polyamorous more often than not, FWIW. Which makes for interesting parties.

    This does make me feel a bit old and crusty, I admit. I’m more in the “I do it, therefore it is a masculine thing” whether that be making cupcakes or bookshelves.

  6. ludditejourno August 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Hey Deborah, wonderful to read about SMEANZ and completely agree with your assessment that it’s important for straight people to support queer people’s rights in all kinds of ways.
    I’m glad people above have teased out your comments around bisexual people, as I too was a little puzzled. Completely agree with what seems like the consensus above – this bill is about allowing same-sex marriage, which will apply to some bi and pansexual people, and about making gender identity irrelevant to marriage, which will apply to some trans people.
    Good to talk these things through in a supportive environment 🙂
    I think one of the most re-visibilising things we can do around bi and pansexual people is to describe relationships as same-sex and opposite-sex. Not unproblematic around genderqueerness obviously, but a lot better than gay/lesbian and heterosexual as descriptions of relationships rather than identities.

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