A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Notes on homosexual ‘marriage’


Marriage has, from “the beginning” (see Matthew 19:4-6), been between a man and a woman. It was established by God as the foundation of family life, society and culture. It is universal in application and is common to all nations, societies and cultures.wedding rings

For that reason, both national and international longitudinal studies, evidence that children raised by married couples have the best outcomes in terms of health, education and income, and by far the lowest involvement in the criminal justice system.

The breakdown of marriage and the decline in the marriage rate has resulted in deterioration in health, education and income, and an increase in criminality. Marriage is the rock and foundation of families and anything less is sand.

Its fundamental place in the wellbeing of our nation cannot be ignored or replaced.

The legal position

In 1998, in the case of Quilter vs. Attorney General, the Court of Appeal upheld the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, in accordance with the Marriage Act 1955. Quilter, a homosexual woman who had previously been married, sought the right to marry her homosexual partner.

Two important Bills were enacted in 2005. The first was the Civil Unions Act which created a new category of licensed unions, which is open to both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

The second was the Relationships Act 2005. This Act amended 160 existing Acts to give all adult sexual relationships equal treatment, whether de-facto (heterosexual or homosexual), 'civil- unioned' or married. All of these relationships are therefore now treated equally under New Zealand law in the provision of entitlements and other legal rights and responsibilities.

Accordingly there is no basis on which same sex couples can claim that they are 'second class citizens' under New Zealand law. They are not.

It needs to be remembered also that persons with a homosexual orientation have always been free to marry (i.e. to a woman or a man of the other sex), and I know two men who, following Christian conversion, have married and remained married. You may know others.


Homosexual relationships are different from marriage morally, sexually and reproductively.

This cannot be denied and it is a fundamental maxim of the English language that, if two things are different, we give them different names, even if they have some measure of similarity. Thus a spoon is a spoon and a fork if a fork. A car is a car and a bus is a bus. We do violence to our language if we use the same word to describe two things which are different - and that is particularly the case when they are very different!

Since we can all agree that homosexual relationships are very different from marriage (it is simply a matter of fact), it is both unreasonable and ridiculous to give them the same name.


(a) Since homosexual relationships (whether de-facto or “civil unioned”), already have equal legal status with marriage and de-facto heterosexual relationships under New Zealand law, no issue of justice or equity arises.

(b) Marriage cannot be redefined to include homosexual couples because the two relationships are different morally, sexually and reproductively and, to do so, is to do violence to the English language.

(c) Therefore “homosexual marriage” as a concept is thoroughly unreasonable and should not be advanced.

*I first heard the word ‘differentiation’ when it was reported to me that Cardinal Thomas Williams had used it when the Catholic Bishops were making a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the Property (Relationships) Amendment Bill in 2001.

The Bishops had submitted that matrimonial property should be treated separately to preserve its special status vis-a-vis de-facto relationships. An MP had said that would constitute discrimination under the Human Rights Act, to which Cardinal Williams responded “we are not talking discrimination here but differentiation”.    

Gordon Copeland is a former Member of the New Zealand Parliament

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