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Green MP Keith Locke Speech Matrimonial Property

Green MP Keith Locke Speech notes for the

Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill May 4, 2000

I rise to speak as probably the member of this Parliament with the longest experience of a de facto relationship. I have been in a de facto relationship with my partner for over 20 years.

Before I go into the matter of de factos in detail, I wish to convey that every Green MP will be voting for this motion because it is a matter of principle for the Green Party that the Human Rights Act should apply to all legislation and all people regardless of their marital status or sexual orientation.

Without the bill today, we would be breaching the Human Rights Act in our legislation on property division at the time of a relationship breakdown. It is right to deal with it now, rather than wait until December 2001, when all our legislation is due to be consistent with the Human Rights Act.

The Greens strongly support the proposal to extend the law to include same sex and de facto relationships.

I would first like to explain why people like myself enter de facto relationships as a conscious choice. It is not because we are any less committed to each other. In fact, it is just the reverse. We want our relationship to be purely governed by love and concern for each other without the interference of legal processes and formal ceremonies.

In fact, sometimes the marriage law has sometimes been used to force people into loveless relationships.

The term "shotgun marriage" used to be very popular, meaning two young people being catapulted into marriage, often with extreme pressure from their families, because the young woman became pregnant.

And sometimes married couples who have lost affection for each other have stayed together longer than they should - sometimes because of the public stigma of divorce, sometimes because of the legal hurdles they have to jump to become divorced, which they shy away from. The combination of the public stigma and the legal hurdles put them off. It's just too hard.

I am not arguing for the superiority of either marriage or de facto relationships. I believe that people should have the choice of what suits them, and over 200,000 New Zealanders have chosen a de facto relationship.

And like my relationship, they are no less inherently solid than a marriage relation Or less spiritual, or anything else.

But I believe that in no sense is a long-term de facto relationship any weaker than a marriage relationship.

We de factos need the same protection for property division when the relationship breaks down. Sure, de facto couples can sign property division contracts, as can married couples.

But that doesn't overcome two problems: 1. First, that they can be unjust, often favouring the male partner or dominant earner. And it is no accident those de factos opposed to this bill are mainly male.

2. The reality that most de factos don't get around to signing a property agreement.

they don't want to waste money on it

there is always a reluctance to bring up the question, which may have the implication that the relationship may not last, or that there is some dimunition of love, and that preparations for a split are underway.

and any agreement is likely to date. That is the case with my relationship. We signed something inadequate years ago.

So I personally, and my partner have a vested interest in this bill, as do many, many de facto couples.

There are the appropriate qualifications in the bill, for example, that the asset division provision comes in after 3 years. And there are appropriate clauses to cover contracts with exceptional circumstances. I am thinking, for example, of the very late marriages, say 80 year olds, who still want their assets able to be passed onto their children.

However, the bill gets around the legal nightmares, where a de facto partner of decades standing could end up with nothing. And it also means that the very good provisions in the bill, where one's child-rearing status, disparities of income resulting from the breakup, and other injustices, usually to the female partner, are taken care of.

It is great that the bill proposes the same advantages for same sex couples as married and de facto couple.

This will not only be justice, but a huge step towards overcoming prejudice towards gay and lesbian couples.

Gay and lesbian couples still face other forms of discrimination in society.

Legislating their rights in this bill is a very good precedent.

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