Same-sex renewal of vows barred in Cook Islands
A gay couple who were hoping to renew their vows on a Cook Island beach last weekend, have been barred by the local community.
A gay couple who were hoping to renew their vows on a Cook Island beach last weekend have been barred by the local community.
The female couple were planning to move the ceremony to another beach on the other side of Rarotonga, but traditional leaders there have also refused.
Bridget Grace has more.
Two Cook Island women currently living in New Zealand were planning to renew their vows back home in front of family. But before the ceremony could take place, traditional leaders in Puaikura received a complaint.
Reverend Tinirau Soatini from the Cook Islands Christian Church in Arorangi says the bible is clear.
"I believe in scriptures and scriptures and the word of God, that god created man and female, male and female to reproduce, to create human beings, to create another being. So the scriptures says that a man and woman leaves their father and mother and becomes one body."
A meeting was held last Wednesday by the traditional leaders - the Aronga Mana, with the church and some Members of Parliament attending.
The chairman for the Aronga Mana of Puaikura, Tere Taio, says they voted unanimously to block the ceremony from taking place.
"As far as we're concerned in our village, we condone these kind of things, this behaviour. It's not the people, it's the stuff they're doing, we condone it."
It was later realised by the community the couple were renewing vows, not getting married. In the Cook Islands same sex marriage is illegal under the Marriage Amendment Act, while the renewal of vows is a gray area.
But Mr Taio says while the law only applies to marriage, traditional leaders view both acts as the same thing.
The couple then planned to move their ceremony to Muri beach, on the other side of the island.
Traditional leaders in the Ngatangiia community remain tight-lipped about what was decided, but we understand they also said no to the couple.
The MP for the district, Tama Turavera, says he personally doesn't have a problem with a renewal of vows.
"As long as they don't decide to get papers from justice to sign and say they are married or renewed their vows through justice. That is against the law. But if they do whatever they want on the beach, I have no problems with that."
The Secretary of Te Tiare Association for the LGBT community, Valentino Wichman, says they support the lesbian couple in renewing their vows.
Mr Wichman says the association wishes to work with the Aronga Mana to understand and resolve the issues.
"From our point of view the Aronga Mana may need some education around these issues. Making sure that they take on both arguments so they make well-informed decisions for their people."
The Te Tiare Association has begun a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality, but Mr Wichman says they are not focusing on marriage just yet.
He says traditional leaders in the country are not yet ready for the notion of same sex marriage.
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