Recently, the New Zealand Herald reported on a protest against same-sex marriage, as the New Zealand Government currently has a member’s bill before it, looking at legalising the right for gay and lesbian couples to marry. As an openly gay man in a stable, monogamous relationship, I obviously support gay marriage so my relationship can be legally recognised as equal under the eyes of the law. (A civil union does not allow some of the same rights a marriage does, including adoption. This is a double-tier system which openly discriminates against the LGBT community.)
I was born gay. The only “choice” I had was to live a lie or tell the truth; I chose the truth. I pay my fair share of taxes and give back to the wider New Zealand community. I believe I should have the same legal rights as my straight counterparts. I should be able to have the same marriage rights under the law (which should be free from religious influence) with the man I love. If I get the right to marry my partner, this will not affect New Zealand society negatively.
Now, in my nearly 17 years in New Zealand, I have had very few people express a problem with my sexual orientation or my relationship with another man. Most people haven’t really cared. One thing I love about New Zealand is the seemingly “live and let live” attitude here, which is refreshing compared to some of my experiences in my homeland America.
So, obviously, it dismayed me to see some Tongans protesting against gay marriage, especially comparing gays and lesbians to “animals”. These two protesters are holding poorly worded protest signs with spelling errors galore. Interestingly enough, this highlights a huge problem with New Zealand’s third largest ethnic group.
You see, according to Statistics New Zealand, Tongans comprise 19% of the population as of 2006 and increased a whopping 24% between 2001 and 2006. Yet only 64% had any formal secondary or post-secondary qualifications, compared to 65% of the total Pasifika community or 75% of the overall New Zealand population. Tongan men are less likely than women to hold formal qualifications.
But that’s not all. Let’s look at some more data about the Pasifika community (of which the Tongan population belongs to) overall:
- Pasifika people as a whole have a higher-than-normal unemployment rate, and, as of the March 2010 quarter, the rise in unemployment was larger for Pasifika people than the overall population.
- Obesity is 2.5 times more common in Pasifika adults and over 2.5 times more common in Pasifika children.
- Affordability of nutritious and healthy food is more likely to be an issue for Pasifika households, and Pasifika households were more likely to run out of food due to lack of money.
- Pasifika people are the most sedentary ethnic group in New Zealand, and “were 40% more likely to be sedentary than the total New Zealand population”.
- Smoking amongst Pasifika people (which is 31%, which is higher than the New Zealand population average of 20.7%) leads to shorter life expectancy for Pasifika adults, particularly Pasifika men.
- Pasifika people are more likely to suffer “greater levels of harmful consequences subsequent to drinking”.
I could find all sorts of facts and statistics on how the Pasifika community and (by proxy) the Tongan community are disadvantaged and have many struggles with everyday issues, such as poverty, overcrowding, nutrition and education.
Don’t you think these protesting Tongans should be more worried about improving their own community and providing opportunities for themselves, their loved ones, and their future generations? Shouldn’t they be trying to ensure they have the skills, health, and education to contribute to New Zealand society as a whole and raise their wealth?
Maybe solving the problems their own community is facing should be a higher priority for them instead of trying to deny another minority their equal legal rights?