So here’s the thing. My actual submission was more than 1600 words long. I don’t think you want to read all of that. Most of it, however, is below.
To the Government Administration Committee,
My name is Sarah-Rose Burke, I am 28 years old and I have been happily married to my husband for six years. I am also bisexual.
This submission is in support of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.
It is by luck or by chance that the person I love is a man. That my relationship could be so wholly different under the law based on the gender of the person to whom I am attracted is something which I find baffling.
My sexuality is as much a choice as my height. At 5’1”, I have often been asked, “Isn’t it strange being so short?” I have no way to answer that. I have never been anything other than short.
Being short is like being regular height, only people laugh when you can’t reach things. Being bisexual or homosexual is like being heterosexual, only you don’t have the same basic rights under the law as heterosexuals. That is no laughing matter.
However it is not my bisexuality that validates my support of marriage equality. My being a rational human being does that.
My heterosexual husband and I both support marriage equality.
For the past 8 years in New Zealand the Civil Union Act 2004 has allowed same-sex couples to legally recognise their unions. Unions which have the same qualities as marriage but are intrinsically not marriage. Our legal system allows same-sex couples to get ever so close to marriage equality yet still denies it. The Civil Union Act was fine, as a first step. After eight years the next step is overdue.
I have heard the argument that allowing same-sex marriage will allow for polygamy, or for people to marry their pets. That it is a slippery slope. The same arguments were made 120 years ago in New Zealand: that if the government allowed women to vote, soon children would be voting, or cats would be allowed a vote. This has not happened. The slope is not that slippery.
I have heard arguments that this bill should not be passed because “a mum and a mum is different to a mum and a dad.” While the semantics of this statement may be true, the overwhelming evidence has shown, and continues to show, that it is family processes (such as the quality of parenting, the psychosocial well-being of parents, the quality of and satisfaction with relationships within the family, and the level of co-operation and harmony between parents) that contribute most to the wellbeing of children.
Marriage is, under New Zealand law, not couched in terms relating to procreation. If this were the case sterile men and women would not be able to marry. Couples, who discover after marriage that they are infertile, should be compelled to divorce. My husband and I have been married for 6 years without producing a child – at what point does our marriage become invalidated? What if we choose to never have children?
Marriage is not about procreation. Marriage is about commitment.
In New Zealand there are only around 100 adoptions per year. Given that a single homosexual person can already adopt a child; there is no evidence to suspect a greater uptake in adoption applications from homosexual couples.
What has been shown is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths have a far greater risk of suicide and self-harming behaviours. These behaviours, including unsafe sexual behaviour, are very strongly associated with low self-esteem and feelings of isolation and marginalisation. These in turn are closely linked to prejudice and discrimination.
Recent reports show that 1 in 5 LGBT youths in New Zealand have harmed themselves and around half have attempted suicide. In a country with already astoundingly high rates of suicide, the fact that LGBT youths have a suicide rate 8 times that of their peers is shameful. It is something that needs to be urgently addressed; New Zealand is failing LGBT youths and this must be recognised.
The marginalisation you experience when you are different to your friends is not always overt. I don’t remember exactly when I got the message that I was to hide that side of myself. Simply by not being recognised as equal the message sent to young people who aren’t heterosexual is “you are different. You are wrong. You are not like the rest of us.” It’s a lonely, painful place to be.
The law recognises couples in same-sex relationships as “other.” There is a law for the general population and a law for the gay population. I feel like my marriage is weakened by the fact that those I love who are in same-sex relationships cannot share in this institution. Marriage will be made stronger by making it free.
We live in a more liberal time. Polls consistently show that most people under the age of 35 support marriage equality.
The time to make this law has come.