Alert: Human rights for all or only for some ?
We have recently received an unsolicited letter from the National MP Anne Tolley, which raises an important issue about human rights, and their application in this country.
The letter, obviously part of a National Party mass mailing, advises people not to support the inclusion of de facto and same sex couples in the Property (Relationships) Bill currently at Select Committee stage - apparently the inclusion of de facto and same sex couples in the legislation, and references in the Bill to 'relationship' and ‘partner’, are ... “unnecessary and will offend many”. The ‘many’ who will be offended are not specified, we’ll leave it to your imagination to provide the missing end to the sentence.
The letter implies that de facto and same sex couples will be treated in the legislation in exactly the same way as married couples - this is not factually correct. The provisions of the Bill will apply to married couples from the date of the marriage; they will apply to de facto and same sex couples after a three year relationship.
The kind of inaccurate prejudice contained in Anne Tolley’s letter has been characteristic of the approach of various National party politicians to the proposed legislation. Jenny Shipley asked in parliament why the people of NZ should have Margaret Wilson’s “... gender-neutral, sort of amoral approach to life thrust upon them.” (1 June 2000, quoted from Hansard).
The issues around the Bill are complex, as indeed is the legislation concerned - the Matrimonial Amendment Bill has been further amended by Supplementary Order Paper No. 25 (May 2000) which, among many other measures, renames the principle Act as the Property (Relationship) Act.
Without going into the complexities of the Bill, there is however a basic principle which is at stake in relation to the inclusion of de facto and same sex relationships in the proposed legislation - the issue of human rights. The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of marital status, including “living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage” (21.b.vi) and “sexual orientation, which means a heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation” (21.m). We either take the provisions of the Act, and of human rights in general, seriously or we don’t. Human rights either apply to all humans, or they don’t - it is not possible to have partial human rights which only apply to some people, that is contrary to the whole concept of human rights.
If you have not already made a submission on the Property Relationships Bill to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, then please consider doing so as a matter of some urgency - the closing date is 7 July 2000. You don’t have to do a detailed analysis of the Bill, a simple statement of your support for the application of human rights in this instance (and at all other times!) would be sufficient.
Because of the lateness of this alert, and the rapidly approaching deadline, we have arranged that single page submissions can be sent directly to Tim Barnett’s office, fax (04) 472 4143. If you wish to make a longer more detailed submission, then you will need to supply the standard 20 copies, to be posted to the The Clerk, Justice and Electoral Select Committee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp needed).
It would be great if you would consider speaking to the Select Committee, supporters of human rights may be a bit thin on the ground at that stage. If you wish to do this, then you should include a statement on your submission that you wish to make an oral submission. You can at that time present more written material if you have not had time to fully prepare your submission for the 7 July deadline.
If you require further information about the provisions of the Property (Relationships) Bill, we have some briefing papers which we can send by email - either as a Word attachment or as text (please specify which you prefer). Please note - we do not have an email version of the Bill, nor of Supplementary Order paper No 25.
Peace Movement Aotearoa the national networking group
for peace people PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New
Zealand. tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173,