[New Zealand 2013] Laura Harper on Same-Sex Marriage: “New Zealand is once again proving to the world how socially progressive it can be.”
I don’t know if you can say that every little girl plans her wedding, but I certainly did.
I would picture myself in a huge, fluffy white dress, something between Disney’s Cinderella and a baked Alaska. Instead of a church, I would walk down an aisle of flowers through a formal garden. There would be arches of white roses, butterflies darting through the air — again, very Disneyesque. When it came to who I was marrying the fantasy got somewhat murky. Some nameless, faceless Ken doll? Later on at about 15 years old, when I realized I was gay, the wedding dreams essentially stopped. Feeling sure marriage was something that would never be available to me, I basically replaced the fantasy with decorating an apartment with a sassy lady named Naomi. We’d share the same-sized jeans, dye each other’s hair, and listen to Dinosaur Jr.
Last week I had the great honor to meet Louisa Wall, a member of New Zealand’s Parliament from the Labour party and sponsor of the bill before the New Zealand house to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill is scheduled to have its third reading on Wednesday and is expected to pass by an overwhelming majority.
This is the first time that Parliament has considered marriage equality. There has been an active grassroots campaign, but unlike states in the US where campaigns are huge undertakings with hundreds of paid staff, pollsters, media consultants and budgets in the millions, New Zealand’s has been completely organic. Talking points have been straight-forward and fact-based. TV has been in the form of public service announcements. This is in stark contrast to the US where the GLBT movement has used “heart” messages and stories of real families experiencing harm due to discrimination to connect with undecided voters on an emotional level.
Following with the general belief of Kiwis that everyone deserves a “fair go”, a civil unions law already on the books has helped older New Zealanders warm to relationship recognition for gays and lesbians, and now New Zealand is once again proving to the world how socially progressive it can be — and fast.
Meeting Louisa Wall was mind-blowing for me. As a lesbian who has been in leadership in the GLBT rights movement in Maine, it felt like meeting an international celebrity, not to mention that Ms. Wall is a young, gorgeous, Maori netball champion. Despite my starstruck demeanor, she was warm and friendly during our meeting, telling our delegation all about GLBT history in New Zealand and her quick campaign and eagerly answering all our questions.
Next week we won’t be back in Wellington on Wednesday, so we’ll be unable to watch the vote in person, but I’m going to try and watch it on TV. Last year in Maine, marriage for same-sex couples became a reality and my partner, Lauren, and I are planning our wedding for next year. Once again, I’m dreaming of my own wedding, but this time with a more sensible dress and in our own back yard. No animated blue birds either. Next Wednesday, GLBT New Zealanders will be able to make their dreams a reality too.
And my partner and I, on different continents, will celebrate our 10 year anniversary of the day we first met — April 16th, 2003. Indeed, politics has a tendency to insist on being personal.
Wednesday night I’ll raise a glass to not only my own love, but the love all New Zealand couples will be able to celebrate. Kia Ora New Zealand!