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Greens support for Civil Union Bill welcomed

Greens support for Civil Union Bill welcomed

After 11 years of policy formulation and a thorough Select Committee process the finish line is in sight for the Civil Union Bill, says Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope welcomed confirmation today by the Green Party that they have given their support to move Parliament into urgency for the Committee stages of the Civil Union Bill. All major political parties have confirmed they are treating the Civil Union Bill as a conscience issue, meaning MPs can vote freely on the issue.

"When we introduced this legislation at the start of the year I said I hoped Parliament would pass this legislation this year," said Mr Benson-Pope. "I remain confident this will happen in the coming weeks."

Mr Benson-Pope says the process has been extensive, reminding people that the origin of the Civil Union legislation dated back some 11 years to 1993, when New Zealand passed the Human Rights Act which outlawed discrimination on the grounds of family status, marital status and sexual orientation. In 1999 all Government departments completed a review of legislation for consistency with the Human Rights Act and in 2001 the Government agreed that laws on relationships should be applied equally.

"Civil unions are about removing discrimination," says Mr Benson-Pope. "It is important to provide legal recognition for couples who, for whatever reason, choose not to marry or who cannot marry. Civil unions offer these people more choice, fairness and security.

"Far from undermining marriage, marriage remains protected and will continue to be solely available to a man and a woman. The Civil Union Bill does not alter the Marriage Act 1955."

Mr Benson-Pope congratulated the all-party Justice and Electoral Select Committee that had done a thorough job considering a large number of written and oral submissions.

"The Select Committee has considered these Bills in a careful and systematic way, and I believe the quality of their work will have convinced many of their Parliamentary colleagues that civil unions are appropriate for our times," said Mr Benson-Pope. "Civil unions reflect the modern society New Zealand is in 2004."

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