From an Australian perspective, it’s hard not to watch the moves toward gay marriage in New Zealand with satisfaction and some degree of envy. The bill, proposed by Labour MP Louisa Wall, appears to have majority backing in the community (just like Australia) as well as broad political support across the spectrum and a very promising chance of passage in the near-term (not so much like Australia), after the bill passed its first stage with a lopsided 78-40 vote last August.
Of course though there’s the usual misleadingly titled “family” groups doing all they can to staunch support for the bill through any means possible – Family First New Zealand leader Bob McCoskrie is trying to make hay out of anything he can find to peddle the same rubbishy Christian persecution stories popular among religious right groups in the US and across the Tasman. There’s a fairly good reason for doing this – because twisting reality by posing as the victim when they’re very much the aggressor is a frustratingly effective tactic, and because it gives them a reprieve from actually having to present even one logical and consistent argument against marriage equality.
McCoskrie’s latest victim of bullying and intimidation by the pink jackbooted homosexual thugs is Grace Carroll, an 18 year old Catholic woman who was invited to give an oral submission at the select committee looking into the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, who he says was humiliated and disrespected and whose views were called homophobic by members of the select committee. McCoskrie has already put out the call in an email to supporters seeking out more tales of persecution.
Family First NZ has helpfully posted Carroll’s account of what happened, and she is exactly as spiteful, sanctimonious and judgemental as you’d expect. I’m posting here some of the more laughable and melodramatic quotes from her complaint. She paints a pretty harrowing picture – you’d think that she was recounting some horrid Guantanamo Bay-esque ordeal. What’s she’s upset about is having people roll their eyes at her alarmist, rubbish arguments, and trying to use her religion as the pretext for why gay couples should be treated as second class under New Zealand law.
I eagerly accepted the offer to present an oral submission. Extended research shed further light on the Bill, completing my argument. The list of detrimental implications grew. But I was driven. And though I felt uneasy and unwilling to continue at times, the critical nature of what this Bill proposes outweighs any sense of the enormous task ahead.
How absolutely, positively courageous! And she’s totally not just a junior bigot because she used extended research to complete her argument. What research was that, exactly? Most of it came from a website run by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (not especially regarded, I would argue, as a scientific institution), as well as work by Jennifer Roback Morse, a paid employee of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage who has publicly stated that homosexuality is a “completely shameless activity”, that marriage equality advocates are trying to force a “hostile take-over of civil society”, that marriage equality as akin to slavery and Nazi Germany, and dismissed the need for gay rights because “there is no future in sodomy.” But yeah: Research!
Complaining that the panel included four MPs who were in favour of marriage equality and only two against, Carroll describes the favourable treatment afforded to a lesbian couple and the father of a gay daughter and others making submissions in favour of the bill. She notes that two gay men made reference to their families (“though their families didn’t actually appear to be present”, she snidely remarks), and uses scare quotes to ridicule the notion that LGBT people suffer homophobic abuse and discrimination, further heaping scorn on the notion that a discussion about the definition of marriage might include mentions of – sneer – “love.“
My submission time of 10 minutes was in stark contrast. My name was called and as I walked to the table, the Chairman greeted me frostily, rather flippantly, and the atmosphere completely changed. The heavy air was charged with emotion and I am still astounded that I managed to walk towards that table and chair despite apphrehension and feeling sick at heart at my different treatment and the apparent hostility.
Gay people in New Zealand were routinely brutalised and criminalised until very recently (homosexuality was still considered a crime in NZ until 1986 after multiple legislative efforts to change the law), and the Catholic Church, to which Carroll belongs, did nothing to change it. But, yeah, I bet they were never “greeted frostily” or ever felt “hostility” while this was going on.
My submission opening sentence “The Marriage Amendment Bill is illogical” was greeted with the Chairman’s incredulous shout of “Pardon!?” followed by a brief, awkward silence that prompted me to repeat it. Proceeding to read my carefully prepared oral submission, I was aware of intense animosity by pro-Bill members of the committee towards me – through their facial expressions and body language.
Facial expressions and body language – the very worst kind of persecution, for sure. But it gets worse.
After a mere 30 seconds or so into my submission, Chairman Chris Auchinvole MP – who’d minutes earlier ingratiatingly welcomed the previous 18 year old female got up, pointedly turned his back towards me, walked to the tea trolley at the back wall near his seat, and made a great show of preparing himself a hot drink and rummaging for food. This lasted for over three minutes, half of my speaking time.
Yet I continued.
MP Moana Mackey rolled her eyes and pulled faces during my commentary on democracy, when addressing concerns of the need for virtue, and points about righteous discrimination.
Yet I continued.
Personally unaware, but recounted by my mother, spectators loudly fidgeted in their seats, loudly whispered, sniggered, rustled papers and loudly blew their noses while I spoke, a stark contrast to the intense, respectful silence given to previous pro-Bill submitters. The Chairman did nothing.
At the conclusion of her submission, she says, the ensuing silence was deafening. At this point I can hear Mrs Cross, my Year 12 English teacher in my head, warning the class to avoid using cliches in our narrative assignments.
Then MP Kevin Hague addressed me in an insolent, contemptuous tone, “I think you know who I am Grace” and proceeded with a personal individual question of “what harm would it do to you personally if I married my partner, Grace?” Pausing to think, I replied that it was a matter of perspective and of the wider consequence. Interrupting me in mid-sentence he stated, “I think you’re saying that homosexuality is wrong”. “I think you are homophobic”. I responded by stating, “No, I believe in the dignity of everyone and respect all individuals”. Kevin Hague replied, “No, I think you are” in an unsavoury and menacing manner. I ended the conversation with a final “No I am not”.
She’s not homophobic, she just happens to think that Kevin Hague and others would devalue marriage if they were able to get married, and as she says in her submission, that gay marriage is a threat to families and society. How rude of the panel to roll their eyes at such a judgement-laden bit of slander which has no relevance whatsoever to the actual bill being discussed. MP Moana Mackey rightly pointed out that nothing in her submission contained a single argument as to why secular law should treat gay people differently.
Dazed, I returned to my chair to briefly collect myself, and couldn’t remain in the room any longer.
Outside, the entirety of the proceedings started to sink in, and I felt humiliated, disappointed and frustrated at my treatment by these supposedly professional Members of Parliament who could not even give me common courtesy or respect. MPs who think that democracy, virtue, morals and the majority have – in the words of MP Moana Mackey – got ”nothing to do with this Bill” or, seemingly, their jobs.
What an incredibly arrogant and offensive thing to say, especially coming from someone demanding to be treated with respect and civility. I really do wonder how this woman is able to square in her mind the notion that gay marriage will destroy democracy, virtue and morals, and that this is a respectful and civil way to talk about people. In one sense I feel bad making fun of her – but then, she’s not 12 years old or one of those poor kids from that Kansas fag-hating religious cult, she’s an 18 year old woman making a statement to a parliamentary select committee. She’s clearly spent a lifetime being fed some ridiculous nonsense by her parents and her church, but there’s an expiry date on blaming your parents for your behaviour. If anyone used that kind of language to talk about any other group – black people, Jewish people, left-handed people – they’d get booted straight away, and they’d absolutely deserve it.
She closes her pathetic whinge by chiding the LGBT community and its advocates for seeking equality and rights but not showing respect for her views, and quoting – of all people – the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, apparently without any sense of irony or self-awareness. Because being systematically oppressed and treated as a second class citizen is exactly the same as not being able to force your religion on gay people, right Grace?
Finally, she leaves us with this stirring last statement.
I felt sick at heart. But I have never been afraid. I am never afraid. To speak the truth.
Powerful. And chilling. And not at all completely bullshit and thoroughly refuted by the people there. There’s no doubt this is something that she’ll likely wind up being pretty embarrassed about when she’s a little older and wiser and when gay people have been afforded full legal equality – what a shame these silly words, for years to come, will likely end up being the first result when people Google her name.
RELATED: Not surprising that the opposition to gay marriage in New Zealand is probably just as hysterical and absurd as their Australian counterparts. Earlier this month, Sensible Sentencing Trust leader Garth McVicar put forward a submission arguing that gay marriage would lead to higher crime rates in NZ, eliciting many LOLs on both sides of the Tasman and beyond. And look, the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton is already trying to pimp Grace Carroll as a victim of aggressive, intolerant homosexual activism.
18 yr old supporter of marriage humiliated, intimidated & called homophobic by NZ MPs wanting to redefine marriage protectmarriage.org.nz/archives/mps-a…
— Lyle Shelton (@LyleShelton) January 27, 2013
I love stand-up comedy and I’m Australian and a pretty hardcore atheist, but for some reason I hadn’t heard of Jim Jefferies until a few months ago, when I stumbled on a clip on Youtube one night. I think I ended up watching all of Alcoholocaust until the wee hours. From his caustic, blokey style, you wouldn’t immediately peg him as a vocal advocate for marriage equality, but in this clip he gloriously lets rip on opponents of equality in a way that a gay guy on stage would never be able to get away with. Which is proof, however annoying this is, that straight people are a thousand times more effective at arguing for gay rights than gay people are.
“If you don’t believe in gay marriage, you’re a dickhead because it’s got nothing to fucking do with you.” Testify.
Jefferies is even better talking about atheism and religion.
RELATED: Jim Jefferies’ sitcom, Legit, is set to air in the US on January 17.