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Civil Unions – Escape From Religion, Or Commitment

Civil Unions – Escape From Religion, Or Commitment?

The Prime Minister says the Civil Unions Bill is needed to escape the religious connotations associated with marriage1. However Christian Heritage NZ leader Ewen McQueen said today that marriage in New Zealand was already a civil institution and in fact legally it always has been. He pointed out that under the Marriage Act 1955 there is no requirement to be married in a church and marriage celebrants do not have to be ministers. And where marriages are held in churches the officiating minister is for the purposes of the law, simply seen as an official of the office of Births Deaths & Marriages. Mr McQueen stated,

“To say the Civil Unions Bill is necessary to create a new non-religious form of relationship is simply not true. New Zealanders already have the free choice as to whether their marriage involves a religious aspect or is purely a civil affair. The Civil Unions Bill is completely unnecessary because we already have an officially recognised civil union – it’s called marriage ! “

The CHNZ leader said that while for many couples marriage did not necessarily have any religious associations, the institution carried deep-seated cultural connotations of commitment and this was recognised by all New Zealanders. In contrast, co-habitation was generally recognised as not carrying the same degree of commitment. Mr McQueen said,

“Regardless of their faith position, most people acknowledge that marriage defines a higher level of commitment. In our society it is predominantly this aspect of marriage that sets it apart from simply living together. Hence in-as-much as the Civil Unions Bill and the associated Relationships (Statutory References) Bill set out to recognise other forms of relationship, they are actually not about escaping religion, but rather about escaping commitment.”

McQueen said these bills represented another major step in the ongoing process of casualising human relationships in our society. He stated

“This is opposite of what New Zealand children need. The strength of family life in our nation is directly related to the strength of commitment between parents. As such, public policy should be doing everything possible to encourage formal lifelong commitment between couples. That means affirming marriage because it is marriage that carries these expectations – not the alternatives that these Bills will recognise and encourage.”

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