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Few civil unions show law needs amending

Tuesday 25 April 2006

One year on - few civil unions show law needs amending

Wednesday 26 April will mark one year since the Civil Union Act 2004 came into effect, yet the low numbers of registered civil unions shows the existing law is not meeting the needs of many New Zealanders and should be amended", says Maxim Institute CEO, Greg Fleming.

"The Civil Union Act discriminates against people in committed, but non-romantic relationships, who want the legal certainty of registration, but not the marriage like ceremony of a civil union", Mr Fleming says.

"Maxim Institute firmly believes that clarity around next-of-kin status is important for all people, not just those in romantic relationships", says Fleming.

Maxim Institute's legal analysis in 2004 found that neither the Civil Union Bill nor the Relationships Bill attended to the issues of next-of-kin status or hospital visitation rights.

Maxim Institute proposed an alternative approach, similar to Hawaii's Reciprocal Beneficiary law, which would create a simple registration system as evidence of next-of-kin, but not be narrowly limited to romantic relationships.

"There is certainly a need for an opt-in registered relationship which has clear legal rights, but it should not mimic marriage as a civil union does, as this is inappropriate for many people", says Greg Fleming.

"Few people are benefiting from the Civil Union Act in its current form. It is time the law was amended so that it does not copy the Marriage Act 1955. This would enable many more New Zealanders to benefit from the security of having a legally registered relationship, without undermining marriage", says Mr Fleming.

According to the most recent figures available from births deaths and marriages, since the Civil Union Act came into effect on 26 April last year, there have been 460 civil unions and 21,690 marriages registered.


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