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Why I can’t support LegaliseLove

OPINION: Ex-UniQ President Stephen Jackson says he doesn’t believe in gay marriage and tells us what he thinks are fatal flaws with the university group that was formed to fight for marriage equality, LegaliseLove, including a feeling that the group has not welcomed input from the community and that it shouldn’t be headed by a straight man.

Sooo I feel like I should’ve written this earlier, been thinking about it a while. It’s all my own thoughts and opinions, I speak for no one but myself.

There’s a bit of stuff going around about marriage equality and I feel the need to voice my opinion because I don’t think there’s been a lot of discussion around it. I question why the Queer community needs marriage.

Personally I think we should just scrap marriage altogether. In this country you have the same legal rights as a married couple as in a civil union or if you’ve been living in a de facto relationship for quite a while. And so I fail to see what exactly we’re fighting for. To a degree I can understand the push for marriage in the States because that has all the legal benefits tied to it. However no one has given me a good reason why marriage is better than any other state-recognised union.

I have heard people say it’s for religious reasons, but on that basis alone marriage should be thrown out of law. I’m strongly for separation of religion and state. And if you need the government to recognise that your chosen deity saw something I question your faith a lot.

Another friend said it was to do with their culture, that they miss out on something the rest of their family gets to do. But again we’re talking about a piece of paper, nothing stops you from having the pomp and ceremony of a wedding. Legalising marriage would have no effect on the way you choose to celebrate your union at all.

That aside, for me, having the right to get married kinda sounds like assimilation. Like, what are we fighting for, the right to be just like straight people? That doesn’t sound helpful to me. Perhaps assimilation would be okay EXCEPT for when it isn’t. It won’t stop judgement on the femme boys, it won’t make life easier for the trans person who can’t ‘pass’ and it won’t stop institutionalised homophobia or transphobia.

And on that note, there are FAR more important things to be concerned about than a word. Like institutionalised homophobia and transphobia. Like the fact that one in five same-sex attracted teens seriously consider and/or attempt to commit suicide, the rate being higher for trans youth. Why is it so important to make sure I can take part in a tradition based on religion and ownership of women when there’s kids out there struggling with the world and themselves.

So now I come to the main group pushing for marriage equality: LegaliseLove. I know most of the people involved in this group and they’re all lovely people but there’s a few things happening in the organisation that makes me uneasy.

Firstly and largely, they aren’t just pushing for same sex marriage, they’re pushing for the right for same sex couples to adopt at the same time, as the same issue. I even saw them written in express magazine as twin issues. When you sign their petition you are saying you want both of these things, not separate petitions for separate issues. This REALLY pisses me off because it is like they are saying that marriage and family go hand in hand, and they both need to happen together, which we know is bullshit. There is currently a bill in the ballot for the reforming of the Adoption Act, it covers a lot more than same sex couples being allowed to adopt. I would gladly push the importance of this but I will not be signing a petition that pushes marriage and adoption as one issue.

Secondly, they have not (as far as I know) had any public meetings. I generally know what’s going on in the Queer community in Wellington so I feel like I’d know about it if they did. But from talking to other people they aren’t keen on much communication at all. I’ve had friends who’ve had unanswered emails, I currently have an unanswered email, the first email I sent didn’t especially answer many questions. There has not been a lot of interaction with the community and there hasn’t been discussion. It’s no good fighting on behalf of a group of people if you aren’t even going to talk to the people about what they want.

There is this other thing, when I think about voicing this opinion I feel like I am going to be shot down, but I think it is important. The president of LegaliseLove is straight. I am ALL for straight supporters, this particular person is fantastic, however, I am a feminist but I wouldn’t even dream of leading a women’s rights group and it’s obvious that a white person would have no place leading the civil rights movement in the USA. And so while I have all respect for this person I don’t feel it should be their job to fight from the front.

I do not support marriage but I will not stand in the way of those looking to achieve marriage equality. I do think it is important though, to start this conversation on why we do/don’t need marriage at all because I haven’t seen it yet, especially within an Aotearoa-New Zealand context. I fully understand that the way the law stands now is unfair and unequal but I want to talk about why we move towards marriage particularly rather than other options. I’m not even going to pretend this is a well-written piece but I am fully behind the ideas I’ve presented and am freely open to discussion and criticism.

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  1. Legalise Love reminds me of a bunch of teens who decided to save the world by holding a car wash using detergent that is bad for the environment.

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  2. Interesting article, however with de-facto and civil unions they aren’t the same recognition as marriage.
    for one, a civil union doesn’t recognize the partner as the next of kin when there partner dies and two adoption “rights” are automatic for a married couple not a civil union or de-facto couple. So while I too have reservations about gay marriage, i think the adoption laws need to be changed and the next of kin.

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    • Oh, this next of kin thing I didn’t know about. That’s important. People should be allowed to choose their own next of kin. Some people aren’t going to get much response from parents.
      And adoption laws definitely need to change, automatic right for married couples while other completely capable people can’t.
      These 2 things shouldn’t be exclusive to marriage.

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      • Should people be allowed to have stupid hairstyles like yours?

        When I’m president, they’re outlawed. Srs.

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  3. I definitely agree with your criticisms with marriage. As a woman and a feminist I find it outdated and objectionable on a number of levels, and like you would rather have civil unions become the default in our country, with a religious marriage conferring nothing but a symbolic meaning on people’s unions.

    But that’s not really going to happen any time soon. And until then, queer people as a group lack rights the rest of the population has. It shouldn’t matter whether or not marriage is outdated and inherently flawed etc because it still holds a significance in our society and in the eyes of the general population is generally seen as more significant that a civil union. It’s a right we don’t have and we rightly should. So while I agree that it’s not the biggest concern the queer community could occupy themselves with, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

    And in a lot of ways, legal change is a helluva lot easier than cultural change. Getting marriage for gay couples in New Zealand is probably a lot less work than convincing all idiot fifteen year olds that using gay as an insult isn’t ok.

    I like Bitch’s comment above me about LegaliseLove though. I started off really enthusiastic about them but I’ve grown increasingly disillusioned and I think your criticisms of them are bang on point.

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    • Feminist alert!!!

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      • But in all seriousness, you’ve highlighted the flaw in your position on this issue. We need cultural change not symbolic law change, which, but the way, isn’t going to happen under a socially conservative center-right government. k

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        • But the two go hand in hand a lot of the time. Law changes over time influence societal attitudes, and societal changes are eventually reflected in the law. Yes, we definitely need cultural change but it’s not either/or. Law change should assist the cultural change.

          But yeah, fuck this govt. It’s a pipe dream for the next three years at least.

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  4. Truth teller says:

    Of course Stephii has to have a differing opinion, he needs to be the focus of any attention that has to do with gay rights.

    I want the choice to decide if my partner and I have a civil union or a marriage, I don’t think anyone should deny me the same rights as the majority of New Zealanders.

    and besides I don’t think anyones knocking down the door to marry Stephii or date him or even touch the guy hence his negative opinion on everything.

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    • stay classy bro

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    • Marriage is a religious institution, and religious people don’t want gays to be able to marry, by and large. And why should we want to? Especially in New Zealand where, as Stephen mentioned, we have the option of Civil Union.

      LegaliseLove was doomed from day one when they started turning down offers of help from respected, experienced members of the community.

      It also seems to be a front for “President” Joseph Habgood in his political aspirations. He’ll do anything that he thinks will raise his profile (like turning up to mumble awkwardly for ‘gay rights’ on Backbencers). He is not a good public speaker at all, so maybe watching a video of his speech yesterday will help him to realise perhaps frontline politics isn’t for him. (It’s about the personality and how one comes across, after all). His speech was also very colour-by-number. You could just feel the moments where he thought ‘queue applause’ as he was writing it. Terrible.

      Basically LegaliseLove had great potential to be a huge movement, but they squandered that hope from day #1 by operating a closed-group and refusing help, plus by appointing an awkward and not very personable straight dude as the “President”.

      My final question: How can a group expect to fight for the voice of those they are themselves ignoring?

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      • “Option of Civil Union” ???? There is no option…. Civil Union is all we have! If only One gay wants to marry then thats enough to warrant Gay Marriage in my opinion…. I’m not exactly bracing to get married but I think as a citizen of NZ we should all have the rights of choice.

        Marriage actually has nothing to do with religion anyway…. that’s like calling our courts being a religious institution, purely because we swear on the bible to tell the truth. We all have the right to decline the bible and just agree to be truthful.

        If straight people have 2 options and gays only have the option of Civil union or staying engaged, then that’s not really much of a choice. Who are any of us to deny someone the choice that they want! Would you ban a movie from screening at theaters because you dislike Tom Cruises acting?

        It’s time the community just took a step back and looked at the bigger picture, We may not want it or need it but are we equal???

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  5. The lack of public transparency is the one that fucks me off the most. How dare someone go out and seek to represent me, and then not ask for my input. I’m a stake holder in what it is they do, they have the obligation to ask me for my contribution.

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  6. Ruby Tuesday says:

    Stephii makes the valid point of secularity – if our nation claims the separation of church and state then that should be complete. if gay people choose to get MARRIED then that should be, as for straight people, a choice that is ADDITIONAL TO AND SEPARATE FROM their choice to unite under the law.
    civil union, in an equal society, would be the state of a legally united, non de-facto couple. should they wish to celebrate this unity in a religious context, such a celebration should not be a different but equal state of unity.

    abolish ‘marriage’. keep civil unions. make ‘marriage’ a matter of individual, family and community choice and celebration.

    oh, and, as to uniting the matter with adoption. stephii is right again. the status of a couple and the relationshsip between a parent and a child are NOT on the same page. they’re in the same book, certainly, possibly even in the same chapter, but they’re NOT the same issue.


    also those of you hiding behind pseudonyms and slagging stephii off for having an opinion need to be a little less cowardly. its a small city, we know one another. lets talk like adults shall we?

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  7. You have a few good points there stephen. I actually asked the leader of legalize love why he, a straight man is fronting it and his answer was “The solidarity of the thing”, so the LGBT community puts their faith in somoene merely becaus they wanna feel like part of a movement????

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  8. Civil Union is segregation. That’s all i have to say on the matter!

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  9. Gimme minez! says:

    I want the same opportunities as everyone else – simple!

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  10. Bolshevik Bill says:

    Frankly, marriage is not the most burning issue.

    And marriage as it is now enshrined in law and cvustom is a thoroughly reaction institution.


    So is the army a reactionary institution, and I certainly don’t want to join the army, and think that anyone who does is dangerous. But as long as there is an army and straights are allowed to join it, queers should have an equal RIGHT to join too.

    Sure, assimilation of queer culture is a danger, but the legal PROHIBITION of assimilation is a far greater danger. That amounts to trying to use discriminatory laws to preserve a unique gay culture. It is called segregation or apartheid.

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  11. Angus Hodgson says:

    I attended this march. It was an excellent march with a great feel, an abundance of colour, and the good fortune of sunny weather.

    Stephen, I’ve read your post and I take your points. But I don’t agree with your conclusion, nor its justification with some of your points.

    My view is pretty simple: I think that the state should only play a role in the legal side of the equation. If people wish to get married through their church, then go ahead and liaise with your church. No problem. But as it currently stands, some people miss out on access to the same opportunities as others. So if it’s there, we should all have the same opportunity to access it – while marriage is around, it’s reasonable to argue that it should be there for all.

    The point about a lack of consultation through “public meetings” is clutching at straws. They’ve had the campaign online, at stalls, and the organisers have made themselves known to the extent that you and others have spoken with them. The point being, you’ve set an arbitrary standard as “public meetings”, known they didn’t host any, and failed them on that count when you know that contact was a pretty simple task through a number of avenues.

    I can appreciate that you don’t like that a “straight” man led the cause. Frankly, I’m glad somebody organised it. He and the team got the job done. In any case, he wasn’t the sole spokesperson for the campaign. Based on the media coverage I’ve seen and heard, the voices of Brooklynne, other speakers, and members of the crowd (including myself) were reported.

    As for the petition regarding adoption law reform and fair marriage equality in one. Seriously? I don’t see this as merging the two as if they go hand in hand. I see it as two issues of inequality regarding one people. Granted, they have a brand problem by calling for adoption law reform under the banner of “marriage equality”, but it’s not a substantive problem.

    Again – I enjoyed the protest. We got coverage. A point that needed to be made was made articulately by many different people. We can take pride in that.

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    • I’m glad the march went well, it sounds like for the most part people really enjoyed it.

      In regards to consultation, I and others I’ve talked to have sent them emails with no reply. A friend told me that when speaking to them at a stall they didn’t seem fully clued up (I can’t account for that, that wasn’t me there). There website, in my opinion, is lacking in information, I didn’t get much from it. Yes there are other points of contact but from what I’ve seen they haven’t been the best at using them either.

      By seeing the two seperate issues written into one petition, by seeing media refer to them as ‘twin issues’ it does give off the idea that the two go hand in hand. It may not have been their intentions but this is how I’ve read it and other people have told me they agree with me on that point.

      I also agree that while marriage is around it should be for all. But what I’m really trying to do is start a discussion on how we want to approach equality and what form it should take because I don’t hear talk about this very often.

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    • Media Queen says:

      In regards to coverage, I’d have to say the march was a media flop. The idea that the world’s media would cover the event, hence the reason for timing it so terribly, fell totally flat.

      In terms of local media it was also a mammoth flop. The Dominion Post didn’t even cover the event, and the piece by Sky News (aka Prime) would have had limited reach. TV3 covered the event but it was given poor placement.

      Gay media are only behind Legalise Love by default, and both this website and GayNZ.com have carried Stephen’s piece, which must illustrate some failure on behalf of the movement.

      Please don’t try and claim a media coup, because it was anything but.

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      • The Dom Post put it in their “Today in Politics” section, page 2. Awks.

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      • Angus Hodgson says:

        I didn’t try to claim a “media coup”. If you think a single protest in Wellington is going to get the “world’s media” to report it, or even top slots on 3News then you really shouldn’t use Media Queen as your pseudonym.

        Stephen, your post is in response to the Legalise Love march and is prefaced by your own views on marriage equality, to use that term. Surely that shows that the Legalise Love march has opened up the discussion on equality… Yeah?

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        • A movement shouldn’t have the goal of “opening up discussion”. It should have a finite goal (or goals) and a roadmap to reach that goal. And until that goal is met, the group pushing for change needs to push its own agenda as loudly, and disruptively as possible.

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        • Legalise Love haven’t opened discussion. Due to the closed nature of the group and some of my concerns about how they were doing things I felt compeled to say something myself. There is discussion about them but that doesn’t mean they started it.

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        • Aaron and Andy says:

          @Angus Hodgson: I just have to note, in regards to your comment on media interest in protests, that the Wellywood protest we organised was the lead story on both One News and 3News (I don’t mean to sound wanky!). It can be achieved, it just takes a novel approach. If you’re going to walk down the street towards Parliament waving placards then you’re going to get a ‘blah’ response from the media. On top of that, there have been two ‘gay’ protests (I say gay because the media lump all of our diversity into very confined labels) very recently that seriously took the novelty off Legalise Love’s action this week.

          • “I don’t mean to sound wanky!” …but you just did. Awks.

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          • Angus Hodgson says:

            Aaron and Andy, are you being satirical? I can’t buy that as an “it can be done” example when it’s comparing marches which call for change, and a march that opposed sign that was a bit annoying.

            Stephen, I’ve made the points I intended to make, so in response to you and James F I’ll make one final statement: we can find flaw in the organisation of any cause, and we should encourage people to air their concerns. However, you might have been more constructive to have done this weeks ago rather than the day after the march occurred.

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            • Aaron and Andy says:

              @Angus Hodgson: You explicitly stated: ‘If you think a single protest in Wellington is going to get the “world’s media” to report it, or even top slots on 3News then you really shouldn’t use Media Queen as your pseudonym.’ I took that to mean that it is not possible. Well, it is. And yes, I am comparing apples with apples. A protest is a protest, and any action that commands live crosses as the lead story on both major 6pm news programmes is a success. Do you think that would have happened if we waved placards outside the WCC?

              • @Andy

                There’s a huge difference between trying to launch a campaign in order to get something into the media spotlight and protesting on something which is already a big news story, and leveraging on this. Moreover: there’s no need to have bitchy undertones to everything you write. This site is a hovel of negativity. It’s gross.

                Get a clue.

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                • Anonymous says:

                  How naive of you to think that gay marriage is a new issue.

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                • Don't come here then? says:

                  You will find negativity if you are a negative person.

                  Look at the front page of this website and read the majority of stories that are actually quite fun and positive.

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              • Angus Hodgson says:

                Aaron or Andy: I’d make the same point that “Ayn Rand” made in their first sentence. I asked whether you were being satirical by offering that as an example because it was a protest against a silly sign of no significance at all that already had a mass following.

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        • The Wellywood protest was a very small single protest and that got worldwide coverage – featured in newspapers the world over, and I know Andy did live crosses to TV and radio in Australia, the USA, and Europe. So a single protest in Wellington CAN get the world’s media to report on it!

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        • The thing is that although LegaliseLove has been sparking conversation all I have heard is ‘what the fuck are these people doing?’

          The entire campaign has been flawed from the star with spelling mistakes, press releases that hadn’t been edited and seemed to have been written by people who had never actually seen a press release in their life and a website which provided very little information and would shape their words and truths for their own effect.

          It looks like it was organised by 12 year olds who were playing as adults.

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  12. Bolshevik Bill says:

    Stephii concedes that “while marriage is around it should be for all”; I concede that there have been problems in the Legalise Love approach.

    Legalise Love is simply not very political, so instead of approaching queer communities and crystallising the issues through a process of consultation and coallition-building, its self-selected leadership has imposed its own agenda in its own way.

    That way has inevitably taken for granted the superiority of the (two-adult) nuclear family as the basic social unit. And many in the queer community see this nuclear family-centred culture as being at the root of homophobia and transphiobia.

    There is no need for the state to have anything whatever to do with marriage. It is essentially a private arrangement and could be regulated by private contracts or treaties among couples and groups (subject to protection of the vulnerable).

    But so long as the STATE claims the right to decide who should get married, it should be stopped from discriminating against queers. And organisational difficulties with the campaigners should not stop us supporting the campaign.

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  13. what is this stephen guy like, i agree with angus on this one, and aaron and andy do u guys just protest so u can raise yur profile in the media, like some sort of twisted paris hilton? how fake girl. that stephen guy sounds like a complete twit

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    • Aaron and Andy says:

      Dear Anonymous,

      I’ll give you a quick lesson in Protest 101. Media coverage is absolutely necessary for any protest movement. If you don’t have media coverage you don’t have a protest, simple.

      Therefore it is imperative that any protest do their absolute best to attract media attention in any way possible, even if that means tailoring your event specifically to garner media interest (ie: a vehicle blockade at Wellington Airport that starts at 6pm — see the significance?)

      Re: your question about protesting just to raise our media profiles: I hate being on camera, and even turned down a live debate on Close Up because of that. Answer your question?

      We have only ever organised one protest (Wellywood) and it is something I was very passionate about.


      • Anonymous says:

        yeh i understand that, but the way u framed it was like u were out to just get attention for yourself and would take up any course that thought would bring u attention.

        that was the inference i got from it anyway sorry for the misunderstanding, now i see what u were meaning and i agree with ur stance.

        Howvere i still cant understand this stephen guy coming out against this protest.

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      • Kassie Hartendorp says:

        Just to be pedantic, cause I hear that’s what people do on the internet, I would disagree with you Andy on the issue of the media. There’s no doubt that media coverage of a protest is extremely important, as it allows the message to be disseminated across a broader audience, has the power to publicly shame an organisation/company/agency into backing down, and raises public awareness and discussion on the issue at a local, regional, national, and sometimes international level.

        However, I would argue that it is equally important to just organise a well-attended and empowering protest. For example, with Queer the Night which took place earlier this year, we did get into mainstream television, newspaper and radio media outlets. We will never truly know the impacts of this media coverage, as we don’t know how many people watched it and were affected by it. But the most significant part of this demonstration in my opinion, is that it had a powerful effect on those attending. I have met countless people who have sung praises of being in a politicised, queer-led march that made them feel as though they were a part of something. A whole new layer of queer activists found themselves unable to stand by and watch their friends, family and community suffer as a result of homophobia and transphobia. A huge group of young and old queer folk felt empowered to get involved in the cause, some wanted to just help more in the community and others wanted to genuinely work towards creating social change.

        From my experience in protests, the media is definitely important, but demonstrations are so much more than that. To follow on, I don’t think that so much criticism should be aimed at Legalise Love for how much media coverage they receive. This can often be out of a protest organiser’s control, no matter how much media training they may have. What they do have control over, is how they run their organisation and engage with the community. This means involving people in the decision making process and long term strategising, as it is the *community* who has the ability of creating real change. I hope that those involved in Legalise Love continue to grow politically and organisationally, and wish them the very best for the future.

        P.S. I personally like the quote that marriage is currently a burning down building. Us queers should be stoking the flames rather than banging on the door to be let in. But I tend to lean on the side of extremism cause it makes life more exciting. =p

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  14. As a queer atheist, legalising marriage for same sex couples has never been a huge priority for me on a personal level – but when LL launched I was very excited to see that adoption laws were included.

    That said, in hindsight, I do agree that it is dangerous to twin the issue with marriage.

    When the campaign launched, I emailed the organisers to offer my assistance. I am a successful professional PR person and experienced spokesperson, with significant success in raising the profile of organisations and issues though both traditional and social media campaigns.

    When I saw that the social media launch was a bit underwhelming I sent a very friendly email offering my assistance and was, like many of commenters, told that they had a “professional PR man helping to run this campaign” and they wouldn’t need my help.

    After that response, I was disappointed but not surprised to see the lack of traction and coverage gained by the campaign.

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    • They had a professional PR man?!

      I find that *very* hard to believe considering the piss poor press releases and terribly designed social media campaign and website that was only slightly above a Geocities site

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