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Civil unions: it's about tolerance

06 December, 2004 Media Statement

Civil unions: it's about tolerance

Civil unions do not undermine anyone's rights and it's time for those against the Bill to acknowledge their opposition is to the people who would benefit from civil unions and not the legislation itself, says Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope was urging detractors of the Civil Union Bill to show some of the tolerance that underpins the teachings of the moral and religious organisations those opposed to the Bill seemed to associate themselves with.

"I have asked, and will continue to ask, how removing discrimination against people who do not wish to marry, or who cannot marry, impacts on the daily lives of anyone else," says Mr Benson-Pope.

"Those who have enjoyed the status and legal recognition of marriage have nothing to be concerned about from others having access to civil unions – with the rights, responsibilities and recognition that spring from that.

"The Marriage Act remains unchanged by civil unions. Marriage is to remain solely available to a man and a woman. Marriage is a very old and established legal, cultural and religious institution. Civil unions are a new legal and social institution."

Mr Benson-Pope says it was clear from the all-party Justice and Electoral Select Committee report back that the arguments being lodged against civil unions had little to do with the Bill itself and in most instances were based on emotion and not fact.

"In recent days we have seen the debate take on a far nastier tone. The language of 'us' and 'them' has started characterising people who might benefit from civil unions as vile, repugnant and even evil.

"I think most reasonable New Zealanders reject that rhetoric. It has no place in an important and reasoned debate and it has no place in a tolerant society. Those opposed to the Bill need to start engaging on the issues and put their prejudice aside."

ENDS

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