Centuries old terms used to describe aspects of marriage and parenthood will disappear in the stroke of a pen when the same-sex marriage bill is passed in a few weeks.
And it will result in alterations to almost 200 acts of parliament to incorporate the new “gender cosy” terminology.
“Husband” and “wife” will each be replaced by “spouse” while the collective term of “husband and wife” will be replaced by “married couple.”
What terms, if any, will be used to replace “father” and “mother” is not clear.
In Spain, where a socialist government introduced same-sex marriage in 2005, the terms “father” and “mother” have been replaced by “progenitor A” and "progenitor B” on birth certificates.
Which raises the question of who is on the A-list and who is on on the B-side?
According to Ogtago University law professor Andrew Geddis, this was done to deal with the “two mothers” or “two fathers” issue."
He told NBR ONLINE that New Zealand birth certificates must carry the name of the biological mother and father only.
Not been an issue
“This has not been an issue in New Zealand so far because same-sex couples haven’t been able to jointly adopt as only married couples can do so.
“But as they will be able to jointly adopt after same-sex marriage is legalised there will be an issue as to how this change is noted on childrens’ birth certificates.
“But there is, of course, no need to change the language – we can just have birth certificates that carry two mothers' names or two fathers' names,” he told NBR ONLINE.
Which is all very well, but how do teachers, among others, refer to the parents of such children at school and, just as importantly, what do the children call their parents when both are the same sex?
Pop star Sir Elton John and his civil union partner David Furnish, who have two infant sons from the same surrogate mother, have got round it by getting them to refer to them as “Daddy” and “Papa”, respectively.
Children of other homosexual couples reportedly call their parents “Dad” and “Daddy” or “Mummy” and “Mummy 2.”
However, it could get more confusing for them when “Father’s Day” and “Mother’s Day” roll around.
How they cope is anyone’s guess but perhaps such terminology will be replaced by “Spouse Day” or “Progenitor Day.”
Bob McCoskrie of Family First NZ says the gender neutral terminology is supposed to convey an attitude of inclusion and acceptance and counter discrimination.
“But in the desire to appease a very small group of people, others who cling very dearly to the tradition of marriage are now themselves being discriminated against.
“This is social engineering and with major social changes like this there should be a referendum.
“Instead, National and Labour are ramming this same-sex marriage bill through with indecent haste because they want to get it off the agenda before the next election.”
In Britain a top QC is warning that similar legislation there could lead to “legislative chaos”.
Lord Brennan, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, says it is proposed to remove the words “husband and wife” from the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and replace them with “parties to a marriage”.
“I doubt whether many husbands and wives will be happy to have the legal definition of their marriages re-written in such a way.”
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord Brennan says the proposed bill grants wide-ranging powers for a minister to amend the rest of the statute book on marriage “presumably to get rid of all the other references to husband and wife”.
“Well, the minister is going to be busy as the word 'husband' appears 1003 times in statute, 'wife' appears 888 times and 'spouse' occurs 2740 times.
"In all, there are 3000 references to marriage in current law and the oldest is in an Act passed in 1285, in the reign of King Edward 1, part of which is still in force.”
Lord Brennan believes the change in law will obliterate vast amounts of Britain’s cultural and legal heritage and have “Orwellian consequences”.
Professor Geddis told NBR ONLINE that in New Zealand the term “husband” is used in 67 Acts while “wife” is used in 118.
“The term 'spouse' isn’t an issue as it will cover a same-sex marriage already.
“In order to update the use of 'husband/wife' once same-sex marriages are permitted, the marriage bill contains a raft of amendments to other enactments.
“I assume that these amendments have been worked out with the help of the Parliamentary Counsel Office to ensure that the law is coherent after the bill passes.”
It may or may not be significant that New Zealand's Catholic Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson – who is expected to have influence over any law amendments – has described himself as a celibate gay.