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Civil unions and same-sex marriages (SSM) in New Zealand

2012-AUG: Public opinion polls. Text of the
same-sex marriage bill. Demonstrations. TV debate.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2004-OCT to 2012-JUN: Polling data:

A series of formal surveys by polling agencies show a gradual increase in support for marriage equality in New Zealand over the period 2004 to 2012:

  • 2004-OCT: A New Zealand Herald poll surveyed 750 adults and found that most approved of the government's plans at the time to create a system of civil unions for same-sex couples. However, only 40% supported same-sex marriages (SSM) while 54% were opposed. The margin of error was ±3.6 percentage points.1

  • 2011-JUL: A poll by Research New Zealand Ltd. surveyed 500 adults. They found that 60% were in favour, 34% against; 2% felt that there was little or no difference between civil unions and marriage; 2% had no opinion or didn't answer. The margin of error was ±4.4 percentage points.

    Among various sub-groups:
    • 79% of those aged 18 to 34 supported same-sex marriage; 19% were opposed;
    • 61% of those aged 35 to 54 supported SSM; 32% were opposed;
    • 44% of those aged 44 years or older supported SSM; 49% were opposed;
    • 66% of female adults support SSM; 27% are opposed;
    • 54% of male adults support SSM; 41% are opposed. 2
  • 2012-MAY-28: One News Colmar Brunton poll surveyed 1,005 eligible voters and found 63% were in favor and 31% opposed to same-sex marriage; 5% didn't have an opinion and 1% refused to answer.

  • Among various sub-groups:
    • 76% of those aged 18 to 34 supported same-sex marriage; 18% were opposed;
    • 66% of those aged 35 to 54 supported SSM; 29% were opposed;
    • 46% of those aged 44 years or older supported SSM; 48% were opposed;
    • 69% of females support SSM; 26% are opposed;
    • 57% of males support SSM; 37% are opposed.
    • Only 46% of persons who identify with a religion or spiritual group support SSM; 47% are opposed.
    • 75% of persons who don't identify with a religion or spiritual group support SSM; 21% are opposed.3


Poll date Support SSM Oppose SSM margin of error in percentage points

Overall support increased about 0.3 percentage points per month during the year prior to 2012-MAY. This is about 3.6 percentage points a year.

As of 2012-MAY, supporters outnumber opposers by more than 2 to 1.

Women are significantly more accepting of SSM than are men.

Persons over 44 years-of-age have much greater opposition to SSM than the general population; persons under the age of 35 are much more supportive.

The vote by MPs at the bill's first reading was 66% in favor and 33% opposed. The MPs appear to be closely matching public opinion, either by design or accident.

These data are similar to those found in the U.S., except that the rate of change of support for SSM seems much faster in New Zealand than in the U.S.

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An informal Internet poll:

An informal poll conducted by Stuff Politics on their web site resulted in input from 14,596 viewers as of the early morning of 2012-AUG-31, New Zealand time:

  • 66.0 % favor the marriage equality bill;
  • 31.8 oppose the bill;
  • 2.4% don't know.
  • The margin of error is ±0.8 percentage points. 4

These data are surprisingly close to the the results of formal public opinion polls. However, this type of Internet polling only represents the opinions of those Internet surfers who are sufficiently motivated to vote. They are not necessarily representative of the average adult population.

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2012-JUL-26: Text of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill:

The introduction to the bill states:

"This Bill amends the Marriage Act 1955 (the principal Act) to ensure that its provisions are not applied in a discriminatory manner. The principal Act does not define marriage and makes no reference to a marriage being between a man and a woman. Essentially the principal Act sets out the technical requirements for the civil regulation of marriage. However, couples, other than a man and a woman, have not been permitted to obtain marriage licences under the principal Act.

This Bill will make it clear that a marriage is a union of 2 people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It will ensure that all people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose. Marriage, as a social institution, is a fundamental human right and limiting that human right to 1 group in society only does not allow for equality. This Bill will ensure that there is equality for people wishing to marry regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity and will be in accordance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993." 5

Clause 5 defines marriage as: "the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity."

Clause 6 replaces Schedule 2 of the existing act which lists the prohibited degrees of marriage. The new wording uses gender neutral terms, like "spouse" and "civil union partner."

The bill would come into effect on the day after it receives Royal Assent from the Governor General. Currently, this is Lt Gen Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, who represents Queen Elizabeth II in New Zealand.

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2012-AUG-29: Demonstrations for and against SSM. Public reactions:

Over 1,000 supporters of the bill marched on Parliament. The bill's sponsor, Louisa Wall addressed the crowd, saying:

"This is fundamentally about human rights and about eradicating discrimination in our country." 6

Those opposed to the bill were easier to count; there were only 19 people present. Channel 3 news said that they were: "small, silent, and sidelined."

John Jolliff and Des Smith who were leading proponents of the civil unions bill in 2004/5 were present. Anticipating the eventual passage of a SSM law, Jolliff said:

"We'll have a divorce party first then another party when we get married."

Smith said to the 19 counter demonstrators:

"What is Christianity? It is about love and understanding, so just go back home and think." 6

An article in 3 News triggered some interesting comments from readers, including a few thoughts that we have never seen before. The first five comments are shown below. [Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and arithmatic were corrected on the original postings):

  • Aloise wrote: "I am not against gay people, but I believe that it is not right for gay people to become married. I feel that if they get to be married then it [marriage] will mean less to every other man and women wanting to celebrate. I feel its value will decrease."

  • Warwick & Veronica Thorpe played the "fear card:" "What everyone misses is that for Christians this is the sort of thing that brings national consequences from God himself. All this talk of 'love' deliberately redefines God from Holy and holding people to account, to a hand wringing liberal. Sad and extra sad for those who dismiss this as a joke. Christians are weeping for you, not because of you. But you won't listen, will you?"

  • David wrote: "Chester Brown needs to stop trying to own an institution that dates back 10000 years (about 8000 years older than Christianity) and used by tribes as a contract to bind families in case of war or attack. Marriage was stolen by Christians ... and it bloody well wasn't theirs to begin with. Just like Christmas which was originally a pagan celebration based around the Winter Solstace. But to Christians I say... marriage isnt yours ... it predates your religion and goes back through countless other religions that were much older than Christianity. Marriage was NEVER a religious institution... its just another thing that Christians tried to assimilate."

  • Ichthyic wrote: " 'You register unions and you leave marriage to the church, temples, mosques,' says Mr Finlayson. I'm voting against it for those reasons.'

    I can't believe this person is an MP. This makes NO sense. In fact, marriage IS managed by the state, in every country on the planet. voting AGAINST this will not alleviate the state of the burdens it already has with respect to the MANY MANY statutes surrounding marriage. Perhaps the good MP would like to vote that the state indeed have NOTHING to do with marriage at all? that would be great, but it has NOTHING to do with this amendment! Horrible, horrible reasoning."
  • Hamish wrote: "As an atheist, I'm against this. Simply because homosexuality in society is a threat to human existence and evolution." 6

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2012-AUG-30: TV debate on SSM:

One day after the vote on the SSM bill, a debate was featured on TV3's "The Nation" program. Participants were the bill's sponsor, Louisa Wall, and the leader of the Conservative Party, Colin Craig. Craig called the 80/40 vote in favor of the bill to be:

"... a failure of democracy. ... [MPs are] not at all willing to take direction from their electorates on this issue." 7

Craig wrote on his facebook page:

"The advancement of the social liberal agenda in this country is only possible because politicians lack the courage and integrity to vote the way their constituents want them to. ... The Conservative Party opposes redefining marriage and allowing same-sex couple adoption unless this change is mandated by a referendum of the New Zealand people. Louisa Wall wants a referendum on state assets, but is opposed to a referendum on the definition of marriage and same-sex couple adoption. We can all see that’s a double standard.

He wrote that his party is doing research to find out "... which MP's (sic) are failing to represent their electorates."

The 3 News article concluded with data showing that:

  • 66% of the MPs voted for the SSM bill; 31% voted against it.
  • The most recent poll during 2012-MAY shows that 63% of the public favors SSM whle 33% are opposed. 7

It appears that the MPs are matching the mood of the electorate rather precisely.

Webmaster's note: Bias alert: In my opinion, democracy works well when the will of the majority is respected, but not necessarily implemented. For a MP to blindly vote the way that her or his constituency prefers can lead to the "tyrrany of the majority." This was a main concern of America's founders. Laws must ultimately be compatible with the civil rights guaranteed by the country's constitution; public opinion is a secondary concern. In this case, the majority of the public, most of the MPs, and the constitution appear to be pointing in the same direction: towards equal rights for same-sex couples.

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How you got here:

Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM Menu > New Zealand > here

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Civil Union bill: What the readers say," New Zealand Herald, 2004-OCT-05, at:
  2. "Media Release: Same-sex marriages," Research New Zealand, Ltd., 2011-JUL-12, at:  This is a PDF file.
  3. "Views on whether same-sex couples should be able to marry," ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll, 2012-MAY-30, at: This is a PDF file.
  4. "Results: Should MPs support or reject the marriage equality bill," Stuff Politics, 2012-AUG-31, at:
  5. Louisa Wall. "Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill," introduced 2012-JUL-26, at:
  6. "Gay marriage support gaining momentum," 3 News, 2012-AUG-29, at:
  7. "Colin Craig: Marriage vote a 'failure of democracy'," 3 News, 2012-AUG-30, at:

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Originally posted: 2012-AUG-30
Latest update: 2012-AUG-30
Author: B.A. Robinson
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