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Bills Contribute To Non-Discriminatory Society

Human Rights Commission
Media Release - 23 August 2004

Civil Union bills contribute to non-discriminatory society

The Civil Union and Relationships (Statutory References) Bills enhance the conditions necessary for a fully inclusive and non-discriminatory society, the Human Rights Commission told the Justice and Electoral Select Committee today.

By making it possible for same-sex couples and different sex couples who choose not to formalise their relationship through marriage, to enjoy equality before the law, New Zealand more fully complies with its international human rights obligations, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan says.

"While full equality and non-discrimination would best be achieved by permitting access to the Marriage Act for same-sex couples, these Bills make significant progress towards the twin goals of equality and non-discrimination."

"Together, the two bills provide for a significant minority of New Zealanders to share the benefits as well as the responsibilities of married couples."

The Commission's submission noted that limitations on the right of same-sex couples to register their relationships, and to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as married couples, cannot be sustained on human rights grounds.

"Arguments against legal recognition of same-sex relationships are based on private morality or religious opinion and not on universally agreed human rights standards," the submission said.

By introducing this legislation New Zealand will join an increasing number of countries around the world adopting civil union or registered partnership regimes. In addition, same sex marriages are now recognised in the Netherlands, Belgium, four Canadian jurisdictions and Massachusetts in the United States.

"The bills are important steps towards achieving the Government's objective of creating a positive human rights culture in New Zealand," the Commission's submission says.


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