Eight years on, Labour MP Aupito William Sio stands by vote against same-sex marriage

A Labour MP who voted against legalising same-sex marriage says he has no regrets. 

Parliament passed the Marriage Amendment Bill 77-44 in 2013 in a conscience vote - MPs were allowed to vote however they liked, not necessarily along party lines. 

Only four Labour MPs were against the Bill - Damien O'Connor, Ross Robertson, Rino Tirikatene and Aupito William Sio. At the time, Sio said there was widespread opposition to it in his electorate of Mangere, which had the highest concentration of Pacific Islanders of any in the country.

"This issue cuts deep into fundamental beliefs - it will divide the community," he told RNZ, suggesting the Bill would cost Labour votes at the 2014 election. 

Labour ended up getting comprehensively thumped in 2014, 500,000 votes behind National. 

Since 2013, some MPs who voted against the Bill have changed their minds - Chester Borrows going on to officiate a gay wedding, and fellow National MPs Ian McKelvie and Simon Bridges saying in 2019 they'd vote in favour now

But Sio told Newshub Nation on Saturday he has no regrets. 

"I did make the point at that time the priority for Pacific communities were housing, health, education and incomes, which are still the priority today," he told host Tova O'Brien.

"There was quite a lot of angst from our community with regard to that. But given the law has passed, we've all recognised the fact these are our children, they belong to our communities, we need to recognise their individuality and their human rights."

He said the Government was still deciding working on legislation to ban gay conversion therapy, a discredited practise of trying to change someone's sexual orientation, and whether it would be a conscience vote. 

"I'm still working through my way on that... I think we've got to be conscious also that there is got to be a line between the rights of individuals and the rights of belief and the rights of religion. We've got to work our way through to sort of balance that out, to accommodate the wider wishes of the community."

Asked if he believed homosexuality could be "cured", Sio said he was "not a scientist".

"There are different views on this. But my view is I've got to accept what the person is telling me. We do need to recognise that, but there are elements from the community who are also wondering about their rights to continue to bless their children, and there is a line that we've got to have more constructive conversations around."

Studies have found people subjected to gay conversion therapy have higher rates of mental health problems and suicide ideation. 

"The extremities of that is something that we all abhor," said Sio. "But there are nuances also along that line where I think we've got to give some greater consideration. But the starting point for me is to reconise that a young person, an individual who feels the way that they are - whatever sex or orientation they believe - we need to respect and acknowledge." 

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