Select committee to consider euthanasia

It was announced yesterday that the Health Select Committee will carry out an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia. Stuff reports:

Voluntary euthanasia to be examined by Parliamentary inquiry

Announcing an inquiry on Wednesday, chairman of the health select committee, Simon O’Connor, said members were “ready to engage” on what was an “important conversation that needs to be had”.

This follows a petition on euthanasia being presented to Parliament on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, former Labour MP Maryan Street and Matt Vickers, the husband of Lecretia Seales, who died of a brain tumour on the same day she lost a High Court bid, presented the End-of-Life Choice petition to MPs.

The petition was delivered to the health select committee on Wednesday and will now be part of a wider inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.

This is a partial posthumous victory for Seales.

It would take a couple of weeks to come up with a plan for the inquiry, O’Connor said.

The inquiry would consider how best to involve the public and what questions and terms of reference need to be included, he said.

The petition, which has 8975 signatures, garnered cross-party support with Seymour, Green MP Kevin Hague, National MP Chris Bishop and Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway all turning up on Tuesday to receive it.

This is a difficult topic to deal with but it’s something that our Parliament should seriously look at so this is a promising announcement.

Submissions against marriage equality

Kevin Hague blogs on the most common submissions to the parliamentary select committee against the Marriage Equality Bill – Marriage equality – the submissions against:

The submissions were roughly evenly split, with a small majority in favour of the Bill. However, there was a striking difference – those against were largely presenting a perspective based on religious belief, while those in favour presented a much wider range of arguments and reflected a broader cross-section of society; churches, health organisations, youth groups, unions, law or human rights groups and so on.

Of those opposed, I am pleased to say that relatively few were of the hateful nature I have seen on previous bills, or promised me that I would burn for eternity in a lake of fire, but those people are still out there. Much more commonly, submitters would say that they had nothing against gay people, or had gay friends.

Most of the submissions opposed to the Bill used, paraphrased or even quoted verbatim the Family First submission guide. Unfortunately this meant many repeated errors of fact or argument that Family First had made. The most common arguments that appeared in opposing submissions were:

1. Tradition – marriage as always been between a man and a woman, and we have an obligation to maintain this tradition, either as a duty to our predecessors and descendants, or because of (typically undefined) bad consequences if tradition is betrayed.

2. Natural/divine – actually two separate ideas but usually expressed linked. Heterosexual marriage arises from the natural order of things in which both a man and a woman are necessary to reproduce, which is the point of marriage. Usually expressed with the extra criterion that God intended/designed that it be so.

3. Exclusivity – the special status of heterosexual marriage is worth protecting, and it would be undermined and devalued if others were allowed into the club. Usually expressed with the companion idea that same sex couples should be entitled to the same legal rights (separate but equal), but civil unions are the right vehicle for this.

4. Dictionary – marriage is inherently between one man and one woman (the dictionary says so). Parliament cannot change the meaning of a word, any more than it could make the word “red” now mean green.

5. Human rights – there is not a human right to marry, and if there is, then the right is satisfied because LGBT can marry a person of the opposite sex. The argument usually uses all of the categories of marriages that are not permitted (children etc) to demonstrate the point.

6. Religious freedom – a very large number of submitters say the Bill infringes their religious freedom, both by legalising same-sex marriages against their beliefs but more particularly by opening the door for their churches/ministers to be legally challenged if they refuse to solemnise same-sex marriages. Some also suggested that essentially commercial transactions like hiring a hall were also problematic, and a very small number expressed concern that they would no longer be permitted to express their religious beliefs about marriage.

7. Children – if the Bill is passed same-sex couples will be considered spouses for the purposes of the Adoption Act and will become eligible to adopt children. This is undesirable because children need both their biological mum and dad or, failing that, at least adult male and female role models. Submitters typically used a “research has shown” type of statement and often cited a number of references which they believed or had been told demonstrated their point. Interestingly a smaller but still significant number of those opposed to the Bill made the explicit point that they had no problem with same sex couples being considered for adoptive parents.

8. Slippery slope – if the Bill is passed it will open the door to parallel arguments for marriage rights to be extended to polyamorous, incestuous and bestial marriages, which Parliament will be forced to accept.

9. Downfall – related to the tradition theme. Marriage is the “fundamental building block” of society. If it is varied the structure will become inherently weaker and it will collapse, as Rome did. There are several variants, including one where allowing same-sex marriage results in fewer children being born, leading to population decline.

10. Perversion/sin – didn’t appear explicitly in most submissions against but was often implicit. Essentially these are people who see homosexuality as a sinful or unnatural behaviour that people can choose. Any law change that facilitates or validates that choice is seen as hastening moral crisis in our society with dire results. Often accompanied with allusions to ancient Greece and Rome. An explicit version :”if this Bill becomes law we will become overwhelmed by a tide of perversion and depravity that will make our country not fit to live in.”

11. Minority – LGBT New Zealanders make up a tiny minority, and we shouldn’t change the law for such a small number, especially when it will offend the beliefs of many.

I’ve heard all those arguments in blog discussions, especially at Kiwiblog, some seem almost verbatim.

Cross party support for select committee webcasts

In response to a Davaid Farrar post at Kiwiblog…

Select Committee webcasts

I’m pleased to see this initiative. Select Committees are an important part of Parliament and this should allow more people to see what happens at them.

Hopefully eventually we’ll see all select committees available for viewing over the Internet, and also archived for future reference.

…Clare Curran has tweeted:


Have been pushing for this with @garethmp and @nikkikaye #opengovernment “@KiwiblogDPF: Select Committee webcasts

Good to see cross party support for this.

Maybe webcast scrutiny will encourage MPs to respect the select committee process and submitters more.  And parties, organiosations and lobby groups who organise mass submissions will also be more exposed.

DPF linked to:

Parliament has announced:

Later in 2013 public hearings of evidence before select committees will be webcast live on this website. This will be part of a pilot to assess how this type of service could be delivered in the future. …

During the pilot, one select committee hearing will be webcast at a time. Webcasting will be able to occur only from certain select committee rooms, but committee rooms will continue to be allocated on the basis of committees’ needs; this will not involve any judgment about the newsworthiness of committee business. A committee intending to hear evidence in public and allocated a room with webcasting facilities will be able to choose whether those hearings are webcast.