|A few days ago, on February 26 2004, the Maxim Institute began its misinformation campaign against the Civil Union and Relationship Recognition Bills.
What did it say? It seems to have resuscitated a theme from the Christian Right's campaign against spousal property rights legislation during the Clark administration's first time. It is arguing that the Relationship Recognition Bill will abolish categories of husband and wife from the legislation. That would assume that the Clark administration has learnt nothing whatsoever from the Property Relationships Act debate. I suggest that the Relationship Recognition Bill will consist of supplementary clause amendments to existing spousal property legislation which will supplement existing heterosexual spousal or marital status categories. Secondly, the Maxim Institute keeps repeating that recognition of lesbian and gay spousal relationships has some measurable causal relationship to the alleged decay of heterosexual marriage as an institution. Can they advise us of this alleged causal relationship, as it is not in evidence in Scandinavia, which has had registered partnership legislation for the last decade or so? The Civil Union and Relationship Recognition Bills include heterosexuals. The Prime Minister is quoted as saying that if civil unions had been available as an option in the early eighties, she and Dr Peter Davis would have taken that option. It's high time that we challenged the inflated claims that the Maxim Institute has made about the alleged magical qualities of heterosexual marriage. Granted, some heterosexuals feel a nostalgic and sentimental attachment to marriage, which is why civil unions and registered partnerships are important. They sidestep possible emotionally charged debates about marriage and centre attention on discrimination against same-sex (and heterosexual de facto) couples. The Civil Union and Relationship Recognition Bills will not alter the Marriage Act 1955. Let's be realistic about marriage. Straight people don't get married because women's economic independence and relative reproductive freedom mean that they are able to attain some degree of personal control over their lives and delay childbearing. Women won't settle down with straight men if they're on drugs or alcohol, violent, unemployable or otherwise irresponsible. If they do, intergenerational poverty will result. Church weddings, marriage licenses, marital ceremonies and rituals don't change defective policies that result from withdrawal of central government responsibility for the provision of social services. What is the Christian Right's answer to this? Well, they'd privatise government social services and hand them over to unregulated and poorly monitored fundamentalist or social conservative religious social service agencies. These are called 'faith-based initiatives.' Watch for the Maxim Institute and ACT New Zealand to promote these hallmarks of 'compassionate conservatism' here. They'd also cut social services to families at risk and force women to get married, when there may be good reason not to do so. They would restrict adolescent women's reproductive freedom through imposing parental veto 'rights' over contraceptive and abortion access, even in cases of incest. They support centre-right political parties that would impose time-limits on welfare benefit receipt, even if it means homelessness, family disintegration, increased youth suicide, child and adolescent prostitution and alcohol and drug abuse. How can church weddings, marriage licenses and other trappings affect the impact of social policy? Simply? It can't. Maxim's 'marriage mongering' is based on selective research from conservative pressure groups with all manner of research methods defects, courtesy of the US Christian Right. The US Centre for Contemporary Families details these abuses. Their proposed 'solutions' will harm vulnerable families and children, whatever the family structure. Finally, the Maxim Institute saw fit to attack the Prime Minister for daring to raise the proposition that government departments and state-owned enterprises should be accountable to elected parliamentary representatives. Why shouldn't she demand fiscal responsibility in terms of service and supply purchasing? Because the named supplier companies are Maxim donors, that's why. What naked self-interest. Earth to Maxim - New Zealand tried centre-right executive control of those same departments and corporations and it led to the defeat of the Shipley administration in November 1999. Is the Institute suggesting a return to those bad old days? Given some of the US Christian Right enactments of radical welfare privatisation, faith-based initiatives and 'compassionate conservatism,' I would suggest that is the case. Lesbian and gay relationship recognition, equality, rights and responsibilities will not erode heterosexual marriage. Christian Right radical welfare 'reforms' and faith-based initiatives will destroy families and relationships, whatever their structure or whether or not they were sanctioned by religious rituals and ceremonies. Craig Young - 28th February 2004