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Marriage Bill needed to codify common law


22 July 2005

Marriage Bill needed to codify common law

“Politicians will have the opportunity to decide what marriage means in New Zealand when they vote on the Marriage Amendment Bill on Wednesday next week”, says Maxim Institute Policy Manager, Nicki Taylor.

“The Marriage Amendment Bill codifies in the Marriage Act what the Courts have always upheld, and what society knows marriage to be; a public commitment between one man and one woman”, says Nicki Taylor.

“The Prime Minister has said that the Labour Party will not support the Bill because it is a waste of Parliament’s time to codify common law. However, this is a u-turn from the position Labour took when it came to the Seabed and Foreshore legislation”, says Nicki Taylor.

“Parliament wasted no time in passing the Seabed and Foreshore Act to codify common law. When justifying the passing of this Act, Dr Cullen said ‘all the legislation does is codify into statute existing common law rights. Nothing more, nothing less’. How is this different from the Marriage Amendment Bill?”, asks Taylor.

“If Parliament does not take this step, they are sending a clear message that they want to leave it open to the Courts to decide what marriage is. The Ministry of Justice have recognised that the Courts may redefine marriage in the near future, if Parliament does not pass this Bill. In recent advice on this Bill, they say;

“We acknowledge that in recent years there have been a number of overseas judgments that have questioned the common law definition of marriage…and that the Quilter decision (which set out the common law position that marriage in New Zealand was between a man and a woman) may be reconsidered in light of these decisions.”

“In supporting the Marriage Amendment Bill, MPs are acknowledging that marriage should be defined by Parliament, not the Courts. It is vital that Parliament exercise their authority to protect marriage from being redefined—in particular by unelected judges,” says Nicki Taylor.


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