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Barnett encourages support for Civil Unions Bill

Tue 24 Feb 2004 In: Features

The Civil Unions Bill about to be introduced to Parliament will see gay and lesbian relationships able to be registered under the law. At our Feb Fruits in Suits gathering, Tim made a presentation explaining the issue in terms of the international and the NZ context. He pointed out that this is pretty much the last outstanding matter regarding equal status in law given that NZ has granted many specific rights that cover our community already. Tim says that "relationship law is the last remaining area of major Human Rights inequality in New Zealand". In reaching the stage where the decision was made to put this Bill through Parliament, Tim said that there had been three options considered; Status Quo (i.e. do nothing), Marriage (as in the Netherlands and most Canadian Provinces), Civil Union under which the attached rights for relationship status could be the same or similar to marriage (France has this option), or Registration of "Domestic relationships" (as in some US and Australian states). Tim led us through the process leading to this historic opportunity to tie up the loose ends on our relationship status. It all began of course with the Decriminalisation of Homosexual activities (can you believe it now?!!) in 1986, leading to the 1992 amendment of the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation (but this excluded law and government policy), the 2001 Property Relationships Act, and the 2002 amendment of the Human Rights Act to allow complaints on law and government policy. Tim and others have been working on the Civil Union issue since 2000. He explained that during the process the decision had been made to go for the Civil Union option here as the most likely to be passed by the House and the least likely to trigger the kinds of extreme conservative and religious reactions seen elsewhere. Although, he cautioned that our community can expect as strong negative campaign from the religious right in any case. Here's what we will get if the Bill passes: A Civil Union will be registered under the law. It gives legal status to a one-to-one relationship, and will be open to different-sex and same-sex partners. A commitment to a Civil Union will be made publicly in front of a registrar or a celebrant by each partner. Religious denominations will decide whether or not they run such ceremonies. Introducing Civil Unions increases choice for heterosexual couples while not reducing anyone's rights. Civil Unions ensure that same-sex couples can get legal recognition of their relationships. Accompanying the Bill will be another Bill reforming laws which discriminate against unmarried couples, including same-sex couples. Tim wants and needs our input to the Bill and the Parliamentary Committee that will be considering it. He also asks us to contact our local electoral and/or list MP's to tell them that we are in favour of the Bill. He says that this is VERY important to give some MP's the confidence to stand up to the conservative reaction. GABA News - 24th February 2004    

Credit: GABA News

First published: Tuesday, 24th February 2004 - 12:00pm

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