Same-sex marriage was legalised in New Zealand in April 2013, when the country’s politicians voted overwhelmingly – 77 votes to 44 – in favour.
And one of those who rose to speak in favour was National Party MP Maurice Williamson, who was a minister under PM John Key at the time. His four-minute speech became a viral hit at the time and the 60-something politician was labelled a “gay icon” and even invited on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
The married father of three adopted children, who has a degree in computer science and applied mathematics, last week retired from 30 colourful and at times controversial years in politics and left his homeland this week for Los Angeles to become New Zealand’s consul-general to the USA.
In his valedictory speech last week, Williamson said he’d try to be diplomatic.
“Instead of calling someone a wanker, I’ll call them an owner-operator,” he quipped.
But with Australians facing a postal vote on the future of same-sex marriage as the government argues the people should have their say and fears grow over the tenor of the debate on the issue, Williamson’s speech four years ago has resurfaced and given plenty of people something to laugh about.
In it, he recounts how someone told him the bill caused the country’s drought, saying: “Well, if any of you follow my Twitter account, you will see that in the Pakuranga electorate this morning, it was pouring with rain – we have the most enormous big gay rainbow across my electorate. It has to be a sign.”
Williamson said a reverend in his electorate had warned about “the gay onslaught”.
“We are really struggling to know what the gay onslaught will look like,” he said.
“We don’t know if it’ll come down the Pakuranga highway as a series of troops, or whether it’ll be a gas that flows in over the electorate and locks us all in. I also had a Catholic priest tell me that I was supporting an ‘unnatural act’. I found that quite interesting coming from someone who’s taken an oath of celibacy for his whole life.”
After mispronouncing “celibacy” he corrects himself saying “I haven’t done it, so I don’t know what it’s about” as parliament roared with laughter.
Here’s another jab against detractors:
I also received a letter telling me I would burn in the fires of hell for eternity, and that was a bad mistake because I’ve got a degree in physics.
I used the thermodynamic laws of physics – I put in my body weight and my humidity and so on. I assumed the furnace to be at 5000 degrees, and I will last for just on 2.1 seconds. It’s hardly eternity, what do you think?
Williamson says he respects the concerns of “moderates” worried about what the change would do to the fabric of society, and their families.
“All we are doing with this bill is allowing two people who love each other to have that love recognised by way of marriage,” he said.
“We are not declaring nuclear war on a foreign state. We are not bringing a virus in that could wipe out of our agriculture sector forever. We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognised.”
Williamson says it’s OK to not like what others do, saying “we’re all in that category”.
“I give you a watertight, guaranteed promise: the sun will still rise tomorrow,” he said.
“Your teenage daughter will still argue back with you as if she knows everything. Your mortgage will not grow. You will not have skin diseases, or rashes, or toads in your bed. The world will just carry on. So don’t make this into a big deal. This is fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on.”
The former MP finishes by quoting the Book of Deuteronomy.
“Be ye not afraid.”
Here’s his full speech:
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