Hon. Margaret Wilson’s Back Down
20 July 2000
HON. MARGARET WILSON’S BACK DOWN
Party Leader Graham Capill said, “Margaret Wilson’s back down on some issues in the matrimonial property legislation is a victory for traditional marriage.”
Margaret Wilson was responding to a huge number of submissions on the proposal to eliminate words such as husband, wife and spouse. Apart from the substantive issue of granting property rights to de facto and same sex people, most of the Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) Number 25 consists of changing the language to that suited to homosexuals and de factos.
Mr Capill continued, “Clearly Ms Wilson thought she could push through this ideological piece of social engineering. She has now realised the Bill will be defeated if she pursues these anti-family changes.
“The government needs to be warned that public outrage over such changes will be the least of their problems. History clearly shows that when marriage and family life are undermined by the State, disharmony, social disorder and general disintegration follows.
“The government would be much better employed trying to strengthen families.
“Although Ms Wilson has now realised the Bill will be defeated if she pursues these titular alterations she is still intent on radical, anti-family changes. Changes to terminology must not become a decoy to the substantive erosion to marriage that will take place should the SOP be passed into law,” Mr Capill concluded.
Mr Capill addressed the Justice and Electoral Select Committee this morning in Christchurch on these proposed changes. A copy of his oral submission follows.
Contact: Party Leader Graham Capill (021) 661 766
ORAL SUBMISSION ON
SUPPLEMENTARY ORDER PAPER
Amendments to the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill
CHRISTIAN HERITAGE PARTY OF NEW ZEALAND
20 July 2000
Thank Mr Chair for the opportunity to comment on this proposed legislation.
The CHP believes these proposed changes are more significant than any social change or employment legislation the Government might conceive of. They go to the heart of any civil society.
By way of introduction, we take a dim view of the way in which this measure has pre-empted the findings of the Justice Department’s Discussion Paper. The two are related because if de facto and homosexual relationships are recognised in the way this SOP proposes, then there is even less reason to deny access to homosexual marriage. Conversely, if the findings from the Discussion Paper show that there are serious implications in recognising such relationships, then this SOP should not proceed.
Just in case there is any doubt: it is our submission and our plea that this SOP does not proceed. I want to highlight two aspects of our submission:
Principled reasons not to proceed.
2. Pragmatic reasons not to proceed.
1. PRINCIPLED REASONS NOT PROCEED
It is our submission that the State has a duty to distinguish marriage from other types of relationship, given that marriage is a holy estate that has, from the beginning of time, proved the most suitable for building a healthy nation.
We reject that to distinguish marriage from other relationships, is to discriminate against de facto couples or homosexual partners. As the Justice Department paper itself pointed out: “different treatment does not automatically indicate discrimination.” Furthermore, in giving rights to homosexual couples but not to other types of sexual relationship is, on its own ground, discrimination. If giving special protection to marriage is discrimination, then why doesn’t this legislation recognise paedophilia? Is that not also discriminatory? So the issue is not one of discrimination.
God’s Word is clear that He intended one man and one woman to come together in a life long relationship. He put a hedge around the bonds of marriage and Jesus warned against those who put it asunder.
But such teaching is not restricted to the Christian faith. Numerous religions and even cults teach the same thing.
It is our submission that no government should consider giving ‘rights’ to fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals. In fact, good leadership would suggest that the State should endorse only those relationships which are wholesome to the family and which will enhance stability in society.
It is one thing for a Government to consider decriminalising adultery or homosexuality. It is quite another to treat those life-styles as if they were equal with marriage. In the 1920s, the Russian leadership tried to eradicate traditional family life. Not only did it not work, but also it resulted in a near collapse of the social order. They were forced to reinstate policies that encouraged the traditional family order.
We are amazed how lightly NZ is embarking on such a radical redefinition of family life. We are, quite frankly, disgusted by the proposal to change every reference to ‘spouse’, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, to partner. While that may appear to be a rather minor technical change, the law has a pedagogical function and it is submitted that it epitomises an attempt to rid society of any difference between marriage and these other types of relationship.
Property rights should not be seen as a separate entity. They are intrinsically tied to the covenant of marriage. It is a holy institution, where a man and a woman enter a commitment for life, and if it comes to an end there are consequences. One of those relates to the division of property. No such covenant relationship is contemplated for de facto couples nor same-sex partners. Thus it is our submission that there should be no recognition of these relationships when it comes to property division.
The CHPs submission focuses on the effect these changes may have on children. This proposal is not about providing for children – true provision means giving them the best of everything. Material goodies may temporarily assist them, but by far the greatest thing every child longs for is a happy home, where there is the love of a mother and a father. We have seen the devastation broken homes have on children. Very often they are the victims. Overseas research shows that de facto relationships are less stable and are more likely to end on the rocks than marriage. The SOP sells our children short by not encouraging relationships that give them the best.
As leaders in this nation, I appeal to you to put the brakes on. You are about to tamper with an institution that has a time-tested track record, that nature itself suggests is right and religions around the world have held in high esteem. We believe it will be to the detriment of the nation and our children to make such radical changes.
2. Pragmatic reasons not to proceed.
I find this proposed legislation rather ironical. It was drafted to fix apparent injustices and enable couples greater freedom in the types of relationships embarked on. It is our submission that it does neither.
It essentially substitutes one apparent injustice for another. Instead of having those who choose to live in these alternative lifestyles rushing off to lawyers to draw up contracts or trusts to protect their property rights, we will now have another group of the same subset rushing off to lawyers to draw up agreements to get out of something they never consented to in the first place!
It also seems to breach Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, ”No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home…Everyone has the right to the protection of the laws against such interference…” It is our submission that when a de facto couple can live in a relationship for the last two years and then suddenly they are deemed to be a relationship in the nature of marriage and are treated as if they are married, that is an arbitrary interference with their family or home.
Furthermore, Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks about “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” Does this SOP really comply with such statements? We think not.
Perhaps I could ask the Committee if it agrees that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the State”? Do you also agree that it is “the right of men and women (not men and men or woman and woman) of marriageable age to marry and to found a family? If not, why not, given that these statements are found in Article 23 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
It is our submission, if the Government is ‘hell bent’ on introducing these measures, that at the very least it should require partners to ‘opt in’ rather than ‘opt out’. There are serious issues of consent that I have heard no satisfactory answer to. Why should couples be deemed to have an arrangement, piggy backed on to marriage – the very concept that they rejected?
There are also serious evidentiary problems for defining when the three-year period will start. There will be two growth industries in NZ if this goes ahead: lawyers and private eyes. Lawyers will be engaged to get people out of these provisions; they will be active in challenging claims & maybe challenging the scope of the legislation itself at international law.
We will also return to the good old days of private eyes producing photographs, digging in diaries, and snooping around, to prove when relationships began.
In the HC case of
Thompson v Department of Social Welfare, the judge listed a
number of factors to consider when a relationship may be
deemed to be in the nature of marriage. Such things
Whether and how frequently the parties lived in the same house
Whether the parties had a sexual relationship
Whether the parties gave each other emotional support and companionship
Whether the parties socialised and attended activities together as a couple
Whether and to what extent the parties shared the responsibility for bring up and supporting any children
Whether the parties shared household and other domestic tasks
And so on.
The problem is the proposed legislation does not make it clear what factors must be present nor how many of them need to be present before it will recognised as a ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’.
It is submitted that most flatmates might
fall into a substantial number of these categories. At the
very least there will be an opportunity for greedy, jilted,
people to go to court. I would put it to you that we may
well see an opportunistic 15 year old, having a relationship
with a middle-aged person who is well heeled, simply to make
a claim against his ‘relationship property’. I think that
is entirely possible, but completely wrong. I also think we
will see many wills being contested by blood relatives who
feel aggrieved that they were neglected in favour of people
in casual flatting relationships.
In conclusion, we would urge the Government not to proceed with this controversial legislation. It is an issue that touches the heart of the nation and if it is passed into law there will be many people who regard this change as an important election issue. At the very least, recommend that it be put on hold until the findings of the Justice Department’s Discussion Paper are known and recommendations acted upon.
If you must proceed, then our Party would urge that traditional terminology be left in tact and that ‘opt out’ provisions be redrafted to make them ‘opt in’ provisions, so that at least there is proper consent and due consideration for the serious step that is being entered into.
Thank you Mr Chairman.