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Lack Of Recognition Puts Pressure On Couples

Wednesday 1 September 2004

Lack Of Recognition Puts Pressure On Couples

The failure of the law to recognise defacto and same-sex relationships is creating unreasonable stress for some couples and families, according to national counselling agency Relationship Services.

Chief Executive Jeff Sanders told the Select Committee hearing submissions on the Civil Union and Relationships Bill today that the lack of legal recognition had contributed to both social and legal injustices for defacto and same sex couples and their children.

Relationship Services, formerly Marriage Guidance, provides counselling to thousands of couples each year. In its submission the agency welcomed the proposed legislation as it recognised the diversity of relationships that exist in society and supported and encouraged stable and committed relationships.

Many defacto and same-sex couples coming to Relationship Services felt keenly the absence of legal and social recognition of their relationships, the impact of which was wide-ranging. Examples included a man who was refused entry to the hospital where his “step-son” lay ill, until his defacto partner, who had been out of town, personally confirmed their relationship. In another case, the non-biological mother of a critically ill child was not permitted to sign a consent-for-procedure form. In another a gay man was refused both bereavement and unpaid leave to go to the tangi of his partner’s mother.

“…In our work we see the distress and grief when someone, in either a defacto or same-sex relationship, is refused access to their partner in intensive care, or denied access to children they have been raising because they have no legal parental rights; or in any of a myriad of other situations where their primary couple relationship is denied. While these situations may not occur every day, the fact that they can occur is unacceptable.”

Many defacto couples coming to Relationship Services chose not to marry because of historic, political, cultural or personal connotations. “We hear from many clients how their experience of marriage… has made them unlikely to consider marriage as an option for their future. These people may be no less committed to their couple relationship, however.” Creating the option of civil union provided choice for those couples without diminishing the rights of married people.

“There are many diverse forms of committed, loving and healthy relationships and families in our society, no one form of which is inherently better than any other. The Civil Union Bill and the Relationships Bill will recognise the reality of relationships that exist in New Zealand society.”

ENDS

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