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“I don’t understand how laws can be legitimised by fallacies”
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“I don’t understand how laws can be legitimised by fallacies”

A New Zealand marriage equality bill passed a first stage test in parliament last month. Alisha Lewis, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Auckland, says one Kiwi student felt it was time to lend his own voice to the fight for equality and created a YouTube video to offer a new perspective on the ongoing debate.

Like many young Kiwis Michael Potts is looking forward to graduating, getting a job, travelling the world and, eventually, marrying the love of his life.

He’s also looking forward to the day when it will actually be possible for him to do this, because Michael is gay and New Zealand law does not allow same-sex couples to marry.

However, with Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill being put to vote in parliament later this month, Potts, 23, felt it was time to lend his own voice to the fight for marriage equality in New Zealand.

The Waikato University student turned to YouTube, posting a silent but compelling video that explains why same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. “I wanted to offer a new perspective on the arguments against marriage equality which are often focussed around a bunch of largely fallacious ideas,” says Potts.

Released just a few weeks ago ahead of the first stage parliamentary vote, which was backed by 80 votes to 40, the video has already racked up over 1,000 views and many supportive comments. “I’m embarrassed by the narrow-mindedness of many Kiwis,” says one commenter. “I just hope there are enough sane people to get this bill passed.”

Potts says he was compelled to speak up about marriage equality because otherwise he would have felt “completely powerless”.

Michael Potts (right) and his partner Khoa Le

“It felt like Parliament would vote on this bill and I would have no say. But then I remembered that I live in a democracy that allows freedom of speech. I wanted my voice to count as much as possible and I thought the video was a good way to get my message across,” says Potts.

Labour MP Louisa Wall has seen the video and thinks Michael’s approach is “not only clever but also inspirational”. “It’s a really original, effective way to communicate with younger people in particular.”

“It’s a fundamental human right for all people to be able to express their love for somebody and have this legally recognised through marriage,” says Wall.

Wall, a member of the rainbow community, says the video effectively breaks the marriage equality debate into “real and relevant points”. She says understanding those points is important in order for people to understand the need for marriage equality. “We really need opportunities like this for discussion and dialogue because otherwise we just keep going the way it’s always been.”

Wall says that although society has evolved since the days 25 years ago when homosexuality was illegal, some New Zealanders seem to be stuck in the old mindset. “Granted, people have become more accepting but we now need an extension of that acceptance. This Bill is about ensuring all New Zealanders who love each other have equal rights under their country’s law,” she says.

Wall was quick to emphasise that the Bill does not call for people to change their beliefs but rather their attitudes. “We’re simply asking for tolerance and understanding, especially from religious communities. Their rights will remain, nothing will change for them.”

Potts too says he doesn’t want his video to “fight what other people believed” but rather to “see it from their perspective and then respond to that.”

The fourteen minute clip touches on a range of issues from the core institute of marriage to the portrayal of homosexuality in the Bible.

“My understanding of a relationship with God – direct from other devout Christians – is that it’s a very personal connection,” says Potts. “Once you start looking at what everyone else is doing, you get confused. Those who believe in God should be more concerned about their own conduct.”

Potts’ partner, Waikato University graduate Khoa Le, says he felt extremely proud seeing the video. “I am so happy to see Michael fighting for a cause he believes in. He’s always been passionate and vocal about his stance on equality.

“And what’s most important is that he isn’t just fighting for us – we represent many other New Zealand couples wishing for the same rights.”

Potts finds it hard to believe that such discrimination still exists in a country like New Zealand. “It makes my face flush, it keeps me awake at night. And even after many long thought-out arguments with myself, I don’t understand how laws can be legitimised by fallacies.”

He hopes New Zealanders can embrace change so that others like himself who are in same-sex relationships can live normal lives. “I am in a committed relationship. We do want to get married someday and I really want to have children. I know that we could be good fathers and I’d like to give my parents the opportunity to be grandparents.”

Potts remains optimistic about the future and hopes his video can make a difference, even if it’s just a “drop in the ocean” of the marriage equality debate. “The debate has been a little stifled lately. I felt it was important for me to speak up and I’m glad I did, because at the end of the day, every voice counts.”

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“I’m a journalism student from Auckland, New Zealand. Originally from India, my family moved to New Zealand when I was four years old. I love writing – both creative and transactional – as well as reading, theatre, travelling and dancing.

“Aside from studying, I work as an intern for ONE News – at TVNZ, our national broadcaster – and as sub-editor for my university magazine. I hope to enter into journalism, ultimately working for established editorial publications within New Zealand or overseas.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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