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PrideAlliance says CUB doesn't go far enough

PrideAlliance says CUB doesn't go far enough

While the Civil Union Bill due for its first reading this Thursday is an important step for New Zealand, it falls far short of what we should be expecting from a country that used to be a world leader on human rights .

"Retaining marriage as a legal option reserved exclusively for heterosexual couples simply isn't good enough," said PrideAlliance spokesperson Kelly Buchanan. "If marriage is a sacred institution which the state has no right to redefine, then it should not be a legal institution. Either open marriage to everyone, or remove its legal status and let churches decide for themselves whom they will allow to marry, and which marriages they will recognise as valid."

Internationally, a number of states and countries are extending the right to marry to same-sex couples, leaving New Zealand lagging behind. "It's a sad state of affairs for the first country to grant women the vote," said Ms Buchanan. The international status of civil unions is problematic; kiwis who have entered in to a civil union will not be entitled to the worldwide recognition enjoyed by married couples, and New Zealand itself will not have adequate provision for recognition of foreign civil unions.

Although lacking the full rights of marriage, Civil Unions will not be a genuine alternative to marriage either. "It's marriage with the serial numbers filed off, not the flexible relationship register we'd have liked to see. It would work as a replacement for marriage, but is quite superfluous as a parallel institution."

While PrideAlliance applauds equal treatment of same-sex and different-sex de facto relationships, we are concerned at the degree of legal recognition of de facto relationships in general. "The state should not be sticking its nose in to people's personal lives uninvited," said Ms Buchanan. Instead, the Civil Union Bill should have included a casual registration option for those who want the state to acknowledge their relationships, but aren't necessarily ready for the long term commitment of a full Civil Union or Marriage.

Nonetheless, the Civil Union and Omnibus Bills have our full support, as a major improvement on the status quo. It is disappointing that Labour is jeopardising the bills by treating them as conscience votes, rather than giving them the full backing of party policy as a basic human rights issue. The outspoken support given by the Greens is far more impressive.

Opposition to the bills consists mostly of horrified ranting about how recognition of same sex relationships will destroy the institution of marriage and cause the collapse of decent society. What difference the legal status of other people's relationships make to their own is not clearly explained. The bills are merely about recognition of relationships that already exist in society, and the only collapse they will cause is in acceptance of unjustified hatred and fear of a minority.

As for calls for Tim Barnett to step down as chair of the justice select committee, would anyone expect women to be excluded from chairing a committee on abortion, or Maori on treaty claims? Perhaps so, but any such suggestion would be met with the greatest derision from most kiwis.

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