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Big News: Bring It On!

Big News with Dave Crampton

Bring It On!

Well. It's all on. Prime Minister Helen Clark is at war with the Maxim Institute over the Institute's views on relationship recognition. The Maxim Institute is starting its campaign against the Government's proposed relationship equivalence legislation. This is to take the form of two bills, one of them being the Civil Union bill. This bill will extend to all unmarried couples, gay or straight, who live, "in the nature of marriage".

Well, I' m sure those in the Maxim Institute - and perhaps some church leaders - would be happy to have a forum as to what "in the nature of marriage" means. Particularly as they probably don't consider two unmarried people of the same gender having regular sex as "in the nature of marriage", for reasons obvious to them. Ms Clark views these bills as promoting "gender equivalence".

At least one writer for website has been constantly attacking the Maxim Institute for more than a year, as he hates what he calls the "Christian Right" even though he was that way inclined when he was younger. His name is Young. Craig Young. He supported hate crime legislation before it was passed. Still hates the Christian Right though, (whatever that is) he's just careful not to break the law doing it.

The attacks on the Maxim Institute are as a result of its stance for a marriage institution that excludes same sex couples. Those in the Maxim also see Civil Unions as something that would devalue the institution of marriage - just as no-fault divorce has done. Civil Unions are of interest to those in the gay community, as homosexuals are not able to marry the partner of their choice in New Zealand. Those in the Maxim Institute, on the other hand, could not be described as gay-friendly. Maxim promotes marriage - heterosexual marriage.

Helen Clark is gay-friendly, and is much happier giving interviews to Gay Express than to the New Zealand Herald. Ms Clark despises marriage and considers it irrelevant. That will be no surprise to Investigate Magazine editor Ian Wishart, who alleges that Helen Clark is a closet lesbian Prime Minister. Ms Clark has publicly said, in the Gay Express, that had Civil Unions been an option when she married Dr Peter Davis (at her best man Jim Anderton's suggestion) in the early eighties, she and Dr Davis would have taken that option.

Does that mean that when Civil Unions become available to all partners, Ms Clark and Mr Davis will exchange their marital status for a lesser one of civil unions?

Probably not, but that seems to be their preference.

It is not the preference for many in the gay community, though. It seems that many in the gay community value marriage more than the Prime Minister does. In a current poll, most people preferred marriage to civil unions (but, like our Prime Minister, would lower their sights to get a civil union if that was all there was available). Most who took part in the poll felt they understood the proposed legislation, but only 20 percent have bothered to get in contact with their MP to tell them they want marriage, rather than civil unions.

Most of those who took part in the survey were gay men and most are not in a committed relationship. Therefore, if Civil Unions became available tomorrow, most of the people who took part in the poll would not be able to get a Civil Union anyway, as they are single. It is not known how many that took part in the poll are married, as the question is not asked. However, given that less than 10 percent of those who answered the questions in the two surveys are either bisexual or heterosexual, perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Another poll asks this question: Is having same-sex couples treated the same as other couples for benefits fair? Most of those that took that poll were in a relationship - and just three percent thought that same sex couples should not be assessed the same for benefits. That indicates to me that gay partners are prepared to have as much equivalence to marriage as they can even if it disadvantages them in this area.

You would consider that most people would accept that same sex people would be allowed to visit their sick or injured partner in hospital, just as married partners do. Well, they can - and they do. Passing of a Civil Union bill is not going to change anything there. Nor will that bill ensure that a partner is recognised as a family member when their partner dies.

In fact all a Civil Union bill will do is provide a mechanism to recognise a relationship and register that relationship with the Births, Deaths and Marriages office. The legal rights that same sex couples have will be recognised in another bill - dubbed the "Omnibus bill" - that will extend to all unmarried couples - whether they are in a civil union or not.

It remains to be seen whether an amendment will be made to the Property Relationships Act to ensure that unmarried couples who have been together fewer than three years will receive equal property rights as married couples. Logic would suggest that this change be to be considered, as next-of-kin rights will be equalised in the Omnibus bill.

That’s the key bill for those who want legal recognition. It's just that those in the gay community want equal recognition with married couples, but that’s something the proposed legislation will not provide for. The Government has already ruled out altering the Marriage Act 1955, which would provide that equality.

It's going to be an interesting debate - perhaps even a little un-civil. Bring it on!
A Big News summary of the two bills is available here .

*** ENDS ***

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