Article Title:The Civil Unions Bill... Registered Partnership Legislation
Category:Features
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:18th July 2003 - 12:00 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
Story ID:86
Text:Originally, this column was going to deal with the Care of Children Bill, but that will have to be deferred until next time, given the prominence of the Civil Unions Bill on the political horizon. Jenny Shipley mooted this in the late nineties, and the Department of Justice issued a discussion paper entitled "Same Sex Couples and the Law." At the July 2002 General Election, then-Express editor Victor Van Wetering asked Richard Prebble and Bill English if they supported it, to which both men answered in the affirmative, as did Jim Anderton. The Civil Union Bill is registered partnership legislation which provides legal equality in terms of rights and responsibilities for lesbian and gay couples, rather than incremental change, as with say the Property Relationships Act 2002. It is akin to similar legislation in Scandinavia and France. It confers substantive rights and responsibilities while sidestepping messy debates about the ritual and ceremonial nature of marriage which have accompanied same-sex marriage debates in Canada, the United States and Germany, although not the Netherlands. By my estimate, Labour, the Greens, the Progressive Coalition and National and ACT social liberals have enough votes for a comfortable margin of victory over this legislation. English and Prebble are on record as supporting it, although predictably, their social conservative MPs are being truculent. Richard Worth opposed United Future's Family Commission Bill when Challenge Weekly interviewed him on June 9th. He reiterated his fundamentalist beliefs as National's Justice spokesperson on National Radio on July 16. At the same time, Stephen Franks pandered to social conservative elements within his own ACT party by dismissing the matter out of hand. However, judging from the Property Relationships Act 2002 and Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003, significant elements of their caucus do not agree with them, especially those in upmarket urban liberal electorates or list candidates with aspirations in that direction. In the Christian Right corner, the Christian Heritage Party remains catatonic. However, Pam Corkery conducted a brief, chaotic interview with Destiny New Zealand's leader, Richard Lewis, who made references to "unnatural" homosexuality and "biblical" references to heterosexual marriage on her "Last Word" late night chat show on July 17. More significantly, the Maxim Institute made dark references to the "stalking" of heterosexual marriage through the passage of antidiscriminatory provisions for unmarried heterosexual, lesbian and gay couples in its "Real Issues" emailout on its website. On June 9, Bruce Logan had similarly attacked the Care of Children Bill in the Christchurch Press. Paul Adams of United Future indicated that he would support parallel legislation, which the Civil Union Bill is, but Peter Dunne appealed to Labour not to alienate "mainstream" New Zealanders. It seems to be the Civil Union Bills opponents that are doing that, however. TV2's Flipside youth news programme ran a straw poll that showed a 68-32% margin in support of relationship equality for lesbian and gay couples. If the government takes this on as a private members bill, it will be foolhardy for opposition parties to take on the lesbian and gay communities and social liberal New Zealanders over this legislation. National and ACT need to remember that some of those social liberals are fiscal conservatives who may be getting tired of the rural, populist religious bias of current New Zealand centre-right politics. As for the centre-left, its professional, urban, young, green and social democratic constituencies will welcome this new human rights measure. Craig Young - 18th July 2003    
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