The leader of minority political party NZ First has announced that the party’s eight MPs will abstain from voting on the gay marriage bill currently in the New Zealand parliament.
Winston Peters told reporters this afternoon that NZ First are arguing instead for a referendum on the issue.
‘We believe there should be enough members of parliament who have got confidence in the public of this country to trust the public to decide this issue after reasonable debate,’ Peters said, as reported by Stuff.co.nz.
NZ First are a populist, nationalist, conservative political party that is popular with Maori voters. Peters refused to comment on his personal views about gay marriage.
The newspaper reports that 54 MPs are voting yes or leaning towards voting yes on the bill, 15 MPs are against it, 44 MPs are undecided and 8 MPs are abstaining.
All MPs in the Greens, the Maori Party, Mana, United Future and most in the Labour Party have announced their support of the bill. Yesterday Prime Minister John Key announced he would support the bill, but the rest of his National Party are split on the issue.
NZ First MPs abstaining from the vote means that the bill needs 57 MPs to support it at first reading.
The New Zealand Conservative Party leader Colin Craig tweeted last week that gay relationships are not ‘normal’ and that his party is against gay marriage. But his party have no MPs in parliament.
Chair of the board of Outline, a gay counseling service, Dr Stephen Rainbow, said in a column for the New Zealand Herald today that legalizing gay marriage would be good for the country’s economy, as it would attract gay Kiwis currently living in Australia to move back home.