Opinion: Why Family First doesn't deserve to call itself a charity

"But Family First's advocacy is not fair, balanced or respectful, so its advocacy is not charitable."

The Supreme Court delivered its ruling after a long legal battle.

A sigh of relief. Family First has been deregistered as a charity and it's explicitly because its advocacy and stance – particularly around LGBTQ+ rights – is discriminatory, and it fails to serve a charitable purpose.

This is a battle the organisation's been fighting since even before same-sex couples were allowed to get married. In case you've forgotten, that was less than a decade ago.

Charity is such a powerful word. It immediately promotes this image of morale righteousness. It's a charity, charities do good for the world.

Not to mention the other, practical benefits of being a charity, like income tax exemptions and donee status.

Losing charitable status is a big blow for Family First.

But this is a big win for the LGBTQ+ community.

READ MORE: Family First does not qualify for charitable status, court rules

The Supreme Court's decision is about more than just this single organisation. It sends a clear message that discrimination isn't OK. That it doesn't provide benefit to the community, only harm.

It backs up something that honestly, we should already know.

While we like to pretend the world is woke, everyone's accepting of LGBTQ+ folk, and everyone should stop complaining because they've got it so good now, organisations like this show that's not the case.

So, why has Family First been deregistered as a charity? Let's look at the full Supreme Court decision. It's a doozy.


Under the Charities Act, an organisation with the purposes of advocacy doesn't qualify.

What does count as a charitable purpose is "whether it relates to the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, or any other matter beneficial to the community".

Family First couldn't argue that it participated in the relief of poverty; so its appeal hinged on the advancement of education, and being a general benefit to the community.

It also tried to argue that its purposes should only be judged based on its Trust Deed – its constitution. Not its actual actions. (It probably won't come as a surprise that argument failed.)


Family First argued it was advancing charitable education with its stance that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court's said yeah, nah.

"Its research reports lacked the balance that is required to further an educative purpose. By publishing research reports, hosting conferences, posting information on its website, and suggesting law reforms, it sought to advocate for the adoption of its views concerning the traditional family."

In court, Family First tried to block a list of posts from its website from being used as evidence, despite referring the Charities Registration Board to its website itself initially.

Here's some of the stuff on its website. This one's an opinion piece from Stuff, republished by Family First, calling same-sex marriage a "genuine threat to liberty".

They failed to grasp that no one is being forced into a same-sex marriage. Just because it's legal, doesn't mean you have to get married to someone of the same sex if you don't want to.

Only last month, Family First claimed Pink Shirt Day – a nationwide anti-bullying event and fundraiser – was "a massive cover-up for a pro-LGBT narrative".

The Supreme Court knocked down Family First's argument of charitable education and said it had crossed the line into advocacy and propaganda.

"[M]ost of the material put forward by Family First suggests its primary object is to advocate rather than to educate," its ruling said.


From the Supreme Court: "As we see it, pursuing support for the traditional family by advocating against law reform which would recognise or support other forms of family can be seen as discriminatory.

"Family First's purposes are themselves discriminatory."

There's an interesting discussion to be had around free speech. Where it's generally accepted "free speech" has limitations is when you're actively harming others.

That's where the Supreme Court drew the line here. Family First's view that family was only a man-woman marriage is one thing. Advocating for measures "to the disadvantage of others" is another.

"Any benefits of securing those outcomes would likely be outweighed by resulting detrimental effects. Even more fundamentally, purposes involving discriminatory elements are not compatible with charity."

It's a pretty powerful statement. Discrimination is not compatible with charity.

Charities are good for society.

What's good for society is that the Supreme Court's made a stance that publicly advocating against LGBTQ+ people and discriminating against them isn't acceptable.

Keep in mind, there's nothing stopping Family First from continuing to do so. It can keep going with its anti-LGBTQ+ advocacy, this decision doesn't stop that.

It just can't reap the benefits of being a registered charity at the same time.

While it's in the news right now, let's not single out Family First alone. This decision paves the way for other discriminatory organisations to be deregistered, too.

The Supreme Court's made its stance pretty clear. And that stance is that gay is OK.

What a great step into the future.

Breanna Barraclough is the TVNZ Community Manager and is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.