Friday, March 18, 2005

A change of opinion

Last week, Roger Sowry voted for an amendment to the Relationships (Statutory References) Act to strip the prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of marital status and sexual orienation from the Human Rights Act. Would this be the same Roger Sowry who made the following speech in support of the then Human Rights Bill during its third reading debate?

I am happy to support the passing of Bill. I have to say, first, on the disability aspect, that it has been a long time coming. It is a great shame that it has taken us until 1993 to pass legislation to outlaw discrimination in this country against those who find themselves with a disability.

I suspect that the disability part was left aside for so long because it became obvious that, once discrimination was to be outlawed on the basis of disability, members would also have to face up to the vexed question of discrimination because of sexual orientation.

On that subject I say that the Bill will go some way in helping our society to change attitudes that have become entrenched against people because of their sexual orientation. But it will take a lot more than the passing of this Bill really to change those attitudes; it will take time. Earlier I heard the member for St. Kilda rightly point out the changes in attitudes that have taken place in society since the House passed the legislation that was brought in by the previous member for Wellington Central that decriminalised homosexuality.

As I remember, surrounding the passing of that legislation was a debate on the sort of dire consequences that would come to this country and to our children as a result of it. Time has proven that not to have been the case. Time has also proven New Zealanders to be a much more tolerant people than many would have given them credit for being.

I believe that the passing of this Bill will not cause the world to come to an end nor cause any great decline in the moral values of New Zealanders. It will cause New Zealand to become a much more tolerant place in which to live than it was before the Bill was passed, but that will take time.

The Bill is an important step along the road of changing attitudes. I believe that it is one of those milestones that any member of Parliament should be proud to see passed during his or her term in this House.

Sowry of course voted for the bill to become law, as did Richard Prebble and Nick Smith - both of whom likewise voted last week to gut it. I wonder what their justification for their change of opinion is?