Jun 19, 2012

Hone Harawira and marriage equality (updated)

Hone Harawira is known for a lot of things, but not many people realise he is a social and moral conservative. He is against, for example, drug liberalisation and gay marriage and in an interview with Bryce Edwards Hone claimed to be against a society of “choice”. This, I think, reveals an authoritarian attitude not uncommon in Maori males of Hone’s generation.

Taking this into account it appears Hone shares more in common with his former colleagues – meaning the Maori Party – than he cares to admit. I read Maori as being a conservative people, if not always politically. This is true of Maori raised in the radical tradition too, the most prominent example being Hone Harawira.

Many Maori are raised to hold steadfast to our culture and our ancestor’s traditions. This is not a bad thing, in fact it’s a great thing on balance, but it encourages cultural rigidity and a fair amount of conservatism. For example, many Maori (almost exclusively men) outright refuse to develop our customs to accommodate shifting attitudes around the place of women in society – think women speaking on the paepae. These situations reflect the social conservatism of many Maori.

Anywho, as I said Hone Harawira is opposed to gay marriage, or marriage equality as it’s positively framed. This position has been opposed universally within the Mana Party. Leading members have asked Hone to justify his position, but he is yet to face the membership with a justification. This is unacceptable from the party leader and he will be rightly savaged for it.

Hone takes the position that marriage is not a human right but a way of doing things. This, I think, is a fair assessment. However, it’s no reason to oppose the institution of marriage being available to same-sex couples. If it’s a way of doing things, why not ensure that that way of doing things is equal and does not discriminate. Such a position would be consistent with Mana Party values.

I don’t think Hone will be able to maintain his position. Party pressure will be considerable. On the small chance Hone remains steadfast though, his former party provides a salient illustration of what happens when you ignore your members.

UPDATE: According to Maiki Sherman on Twitter Hone Harawira would not be drawn on the issue of gay marriage saying that the party is still developing a position. This conflicts with the view Hone expressed in this interview with Bryce Edwards. For a list of MPs and their positions on marriage equality see this.


  1. Morgan,

    As pakeha, I preemptively cringe at some of the comments I am about to make. I like to think they will be seen in the light they are intended. And hey, I'm pseudo-anon!

    Two thoughts:

    - As an occasional participant in marae settings, I find the diminiation of women in these formal settings to be an upsetting anachronism. It isn't my culture, but this is one element that I wish maoridom would move past.

    - I've held a theory that when your culture, lifestyles and practices were frankly decimated as much as Maoridom was, that indigenous people everywhere hang onto those elements that are left for dear life. That conservativism that you refer to could be interpreted instead as desperately trying to maintain the little that is left of an independent culture. Sometimes, this creates a challenge like that I have listed above. That is, if my little theory is correct.

    1. Hi Baron,

      Men and women have defined roles on the Marae. These roles are not based on any notion that women are inferior, only that women occupy a different sphere in Te Ao Maori. I don't think there are any elements of sexism, but in 2012 women should be able to move between roles to a certain extent. For example, the paepae should be open to women.

      I think you're dead right on your second point. I've made a very similar point here previously.

    2. Yep - be careful when defining the status of women based on Western notions of inferior/superiority. Don't take women not speaking on marae as a sign of Maori women having a subjugated role traditionally. In saying that, your second point I can agree with. It is time for Maori women to share the lead from all spheres, including the paepae. WE have to have faith that letting our tikanga evolve is not the same as losing it.

    3. Just want to say that as a Pakeha one cannot equate western notions of female oppression to Maori. Marama Davidson is absolutely right when we (Pakeha) look into Maoridom we do so with a western lens - we can't really do it any other way because we have been indoctrinated in this world-view - it's our culture. Therefore I believe that it is far more important that we not make comment on what is beyond our comprehension and as Marama points out tikanga is evolving and it is for Maori women to challenge and guard these changes.

    4. The marae is a recent invention and the issue of women roles is a christian development on gender. When the missionaries arrived they refused to treat with women leaders because they were bare breasted. Traditional Maori society was matrilinneal - inheretance was through the female line and males tended to marry into hapu. Descent was always described through the female line. The advent of european male concepts eroded female prominance. Land court judges ignored traditional female descent in favour of male succession. And this wrongheaded thinking has persisted to such an extent that scholars and maori leaders have lost their grip on cultural imperatives, confusing male dominance for traditional custom.

  2. Hone and the Mana Party are reminding me more and more of Jim Anderton and the NLP / Alliance, minus the initia electoral success.

    It seems that when Hone left the Maori party on a matter of principle, the principle was less "The party should listen to its members" and more "Everybody should listen to me". The fact that his position was the membership's position was simply a coincidence.

  3. I think Hone's position is more about his own insecurities than his cultural values. I know many Maori males who do not have such a rigid opinion on being gay, or gay marriage - In fact, I also know many who would be considered rangatira or leaders who are out and proud gay. Some things are not culturally driven, and I would hate to think that our culture would be used as a convenient curtain for a political figure to hide behind. Homosexuality is expressed in some of our myths and legends too - it's just a matter of looking for it.

  4. I didn't know Hone was against gay marriage. Having given Mana my vote at the last election cos they were the closest to my beliefs and values, I might have to rethink who I will vote for next time if Hone's views prevail in the party. If gay couples can't marry, there can be legal hassles over guardianship, inheritance, when there are kids involved.

  5. This isn't a shock to me. Some time ago Hone was present at a Marae up North where my partner was discussing with kuia and kaumatua the need for safe sex amongst young male takataapui (gay/bi etc) rangatahi... Hone just tried to shut the whole discussion down by proclaiming loudly that "Some things are right, and some things are just wrong!"

  6. The trouble with saying that being anti-marriage equality is about being socially conservative with regards to any culture that has been oppressed through colonisation is that there's plenty of evidence that homosexual behaviour and gender diversity have had their place in practically every pre-industrial culture worldwide. It was colonisation, usually, and the forcible religious conversion that went with it that quashed that. (Māori religion was not even just discouraged, it was actively outlawed in 1907.) It's being conservative in the bounds of Christianity that leads to such a position, not a particular ethnic culture.

    As for the marae discussion above - I've been told stories of the men coming to a decision that the women disagreed with, whereupon the women would sing a closing waiata with a completely opposite message. Or they would refuse to sing at all, meaning things couldn't progress.

  7. The right to equality before the law is fundamental to democracy. Those who pretend to fight against oppression but block moves towards equality are hypocrites. If Mana is among the opponents of equal access to marriage its moral bankruptcy is clear. This will be its end.

  8. Tariana Turia of the Maori Party has reviewed her position and is now willing to support marriage equality. Pita Sharples was always OK about it. Mana Party has many takataapui members. Hone needs to rethink his position if he doesn't want to be a political dinosaur.

    1. Tariana lost her credibility with me when she stated her opposition to gay adoption. Her roots are conservative traditonal Maori and she votes that way backing and supporting the National Party. Her reticence to adopt Ratana values - the end of tribalism is clearly an indication of her cultural imperatives. She thinks like a missionary that ruined traditional maori society by hunting with the hounds and running with the hares. Maori leaders have lost their way by not facing change since 1840

    2. That's incorrect. Tariana supports Gay adoption. She's a huge advocate for Whangai as well. Tariana has stated in the past that she will vote in the best interest of the child - doesnt matter who or what gender cares for the child, so long as they're taking care of them.

  9. This is why I will wait until a younger generation of Maori enter Parliament. Gay marriage and drug reform in particular, will not occur with support from our current Maori MP's.

  10. Interesting analysis of the divergence between Hone and Mana Party rank and file.
    I suggest that same-sex marriage is in the headlines again, mainly because U.S. President Barack Obama wants votes from Generation Y who have been brainwashed into believing that same-sex marriage is cool.
    New Zealand politicians are making the same noises for the same reasons, and a Fair Go presenter argued the case on Close Up because she wants another special day with her same-sex partner.
    One overlooked fact is that, if enacted, same-sex marriage would involve few people.
    Figures from New Zealand’s 2006 census show that same-sex couples made up less than 1 percent of all couples in New Zealand. The numbers of homosexual men living together reached 0.3 percent in 2006, while the number of homosexual women cohabiting made up 0.4 percent of all couples living together.
    Another overlooked fact is that same-sex marriage is bad for kids.
    Research by Mark Regnerus published in the Social Science Journal revealed that children with a parent in a same-sex relationship “under-perform” in almost every category. And while fewer than 2 percent of children from intact, biological families reported experiencing sexual abuse of some nature, but that figure for children of same-sex couples is 23 percent.
    Politicians may legalise same-sex marriage, but they won’t change the fact that procreation results from the union of male and female, and this follows the pattern right throughout the natural world.
    For that reason, dictionaries define marriage as involving a man and a woman, usually for procreation.
    I'm with Hone on this one.

  11. I dont believe in Gay Marriage. The Gay community wanted their rights so the Government gave them their rights. And the public had no say in the matter. Simply passed a law and gave them the legal right to perform sexual acts on each other. That law was passed so as not to put them in jail for sexual acts, then the civil union bill was passed now Gay Marriage???? These are all moral issues for adults not a legislative issue.
    Prostitution, abortion,adultery, war, drunkeness, voilence, murder, lust, deceit, greed, lying and cheating are all moral issue etc..... the list goes on..... If we all stop and have a good look at ourselves and begin to change for the better (take the log out of our eyes) then we as man will be able to see the truth. Two woman can not be joined together to become one this can only happen between a man and a woman. nor can two woman conceive a child together. Two men can not be joined together to become one nor can they conceive a child together. The Gay community, the Blind community,The Deaf and Dumb community,Nations & all peoples man & women, all have challenges in life no matter what but at the end of the day we all have to overcome our difficulties, we are all born imperfect but all things are possible we can all overcome our desires if we truly believe in whats right. The Gay Community have many good gifts. If God's people believe in eternal life then whats a 100 years (more or less) on earth compared to living for ever through righteousness.

  12. Hone is entitled to his moral conservative view, it is not to different to those in the era that he comes from, however the younger generation of MANA support rights of all peoples regardless of their sexual preferences, the right to be free of discrimination and if laws need to change, then laws need to change. However if you are to unpack the marriage act itself, you would find the religious connations or the place in which it was created "from the bible" never intended to be inclusive of their way of life in fact quite the opposite, if I was of this group I would care not for this piece of legislation as it excluded me from the beginning. Societal morales and values have been indoctrined with belief of a relgious view so in turn we all in some way have moral conservatism in some aspect of our lives. The only answer is to do what is right "tika me te pono" and if people are willing to stand up and fight and struggle for those rights, then we must applaude them and in turn support them.

  13. Tracy-lee like you speak for all young maori.... Some of them can see through the bullshit propaganda. Mana being opposed to gay marriage and left wing is a great thing, its my ideal party whilst it takes these positions! Fact is its not about rights. Its like this a man does not have a right to pee in a womens toilet, becuase he is biologically different he has a different number of x and y sex chromosomes to a women. Now 2 men and 2 women have also a different total number of x and y sex chromosomes between them than those of straight people who will always have 3 x chromosomes and 1 y between them, thus its nothing to do with rights, you cant have a marriage if you don't have that 3x one y rule. 4x or 2x 2y just cant be called marriage for the same reason we dont let men pee in womans toilets, the couples are not the same biologicaly as a straight couple as evidenced by a different number of sex chromosomes.



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