National's Simon O'Connor denies 'mother and father' remark was meant to be homophobic

National MP Simon O'Connor denies he was suggesting same-sex couples shouldn't be raising children when he stressed in a parliamentary debate that it should be the responsibility of the "mother and the father" to raise their child.

He says he was instead trying to make the point that fathers, who he says are often the ones paying child support, need to be involved in raising their children.

O'Connor has also got the backing of his leader Christopher Luxon, who says the Tamaki MP was instead "trying to beat up on deadbeat dads" who need to step up and take responsibility for their children.

Politicians on Tuesday night considered the Child Support (Pass On) Acts Amendment Bill, which ensures all child support being paid to a beneficiary on a sole parent benefit goes to the parent. Currently, IRD takes the child support amount equal to the parent's benefit and only pays them the excess.

During the debate, O'Connor said it was his personal view that it was the responsibility of parents to "look after their own children" and the State should "by and large" stay out of it. He said there are some "pragmatic and right reasons" for the State to assist.

"It is the responsibility of the mother and the father - and I'm being very deliberate with my language there: the mother and the father - to raise the child," O'Connor said.

It was this comment that caused dismay online.

Labour MP Marja Lubeck tweeted the statement on Tuesday night, leading to some to suggest the comments were homophobic for stressing "mother and father". Labour minister Kiri Allan on Wednesday shared a video of O'Connor making his remarks with the hashtag "#NoHomo". 

But O'Connor told Newshub he wasn't saying same-sex parents shouldn't raise children and acknowledged there is a range of family structures.

He said an overwhelming number of people paying child support are fathers, so was focusing his words towards them.

"Simply that the fathers need to continue their obligations and be part of raising their children."

O'Connor's boss, Luxon, also denied his MP was being homophobic.

"What [point] Simon was trying to make, in the context of a child support Bill, was I thought really clear," Luxon said.

"He was trying to beat up on deadbeat dads and say, 'Hang on, you've got a responsibility here to step up and look after your kids'. I didn't take any offence to those comments."

Luxon repeatedly said O'Connor was going after "deadbeat dads", which he said "don't show up, they are not invested and they are not looking after their kids".

"These are their kids, they have a responsibility to do that and that is what I think he was calling out."

He said many solo dads do a "great job looking after their kids".

The National leader also said "families come in all shapes and sizes, relationships come in all shapes and sizes".

"I know personally, [O'Connor] has done a great job of supporting people in his electorate. I can think of gay couples that he has helped support adopting children from overseas."

Luxon hasn't spoken to O'Connor personally about the issue, but his office has.

He said Allan's tweet could be trying to distract from her giving the wrong speech during a debate on Tuesday night. The Labour Whips have reportedly said that was their issue, passing her the wrong speech when she stepped in to speak.

O'Connor is well known for his conservative views. He's received some criticism in the past for how he's expressed them. Last year, he took down a Facebook post celebrating the overturning of the Roe v Wade abortion decision in the United States. In March, he apologised for making an "insensitive" comment about the Nashville shootings.

This month, he's also boasted about his lobbying leading to National walking back its position on housing density.