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Civil Union Threat To Freedoms Of Speech: ACT


Ensure No Civil Union Threat To Freedoms Of Speech, Religion & Association

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today released draft amendments to the Human Rights Act to protect freedoms of speech, association and religion, so that people who oppose civil union are not forced to be involved in civil union ceremonies.

"Civil Unions are not defined in the Bill to be debated this week. The Relationships (Statutory References) Bill (the `Companion Bill') extends marriage treatment to all de-facto couples," Mr Franks said.

"It makes it unnecessary to marry or civilly unite to be treated in law as `married'. That means `civil unions' are not needed to remove the legal disabilities previously affecting same sex couples. The Courts may be forced to conclude that the Government intend to give same-sex relationships privileges against criticism.

"The Bill also means the State is not supporting any kind of committed relationship. That leaves it entirely up to individuals and non-State institutions to protect and encourage marriage, and to foster virtues such as fidelity.

"It becomes even more important that so called `human rights' law must no longer get in the way.

"My proposed amendment would ensure that people will not be criminalised for doing what they can peaceably and within the law to live their beliefs and to persuade others to do the same.

"For example, if the Civil Union Bill passes without this amendment to the Human Rights Act, a caterer or a taxi driver with strong social or religious objections to facilitating same-sex relationships could be prosecuted for declining to be involved.

"Extraordinary as it may seem, a church could be prosecuted for refusing to make their church premises available for a civil union, even though it is clear that a cleric could not be forced to conduct one without registering as a celebrant. The employment and education exceptions for religions in the Human Rights Act do not seem to cover the provision of premises made available to others.

"My amendments do not make judgements about morality. That judgement is for individuals. `The State has no place in the bedrooms of the nation' - that good slogan does not mean the State must punish anyone else who wants to influence what should or should not happen in the bedroom.

"Indeed the coercive State must be excluded precisely to leave morality to the interplay of private argument persuasion and social and family sanctions.

"These influences should contend among people without any side being able to ask the Human Rights Commissars to punish the other side. The State must continue protect people from violent coercion, under ordinary criminal law.

"It is time to restore freedoms lost by New Zealanders in 1993.

"I have asked the Government to agree to an extra amendment in the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill - as seen below - as an addition to the existing amendments to the Human Rights Act 1993 in Schedule 13.

"32A Protection of Freedom of Expression, of Association, and of Religious Expression in Relation to Family Matters

1. Nothing in section 21 or elsewhere in this Act may be taken for any purpose in law or in relation to the exercise of the powers of government as favour for specified conduct by the government or the people of New Zealand.

2. Notwithstanding section 21(1)(b)[marital status] and (m)[sexual orientation] nothing in this Act restrains, or justifies legal restraint on any person other than the Crown, in relation to any otherwise lawful act or exercise of rights or powers to avoid connection with, or to express disfavour for, any specified conduct.

3. The protection of subsection (2) extends, without limitation, to:

(a) free expression about specified conduct, and in particular

• to advocate against it, or against the normalisation if it.

• to criticise or stigmatise any person for engaging in or advocating it.

• to discourage or dissuade any person from engaging in or advocating it.

(b) any provider of employment, goods or services (including marriage or civil union celebrancy services, or tenancies or other uses of real property) who discriminate to discourage or to avoid being connected with specified conduct or with the promotion or normalisation of it.

(c) Parents or guardians who seek to prevent their children from engaging in specified conduct.

4. For the purposes of this section

(a) Specified conduct is extra-marital sex, extra-marital child bearing, the breach of promises exchanged in marriage, desertion, same sex relationships in the nature of marriage, and homosexual sex.

(b) The Crown includes:

• Local government, and any agency of central or local government, whether acting directly or indirectly.

• Any person employed by any of them, but only while acting in that capacity; and

(c) References to person include classes of person.

5. This section prevails over anything in the laws and instruments set out in subsection (6) and they must be read subject to it, but it does not authorise or exempt the use of violence or the threat of violence or other crime under the Crimes Act or the Summary Proceedings Act, or any breach of contract or any defamation or other tort.

6. An otherwise lawful act or omission to act in pursuit of the purposes set out in subsections (2) and (3) may not be made unlawful by any of the following enactments or instruments, or by any tribunal or authority acting under them:

(a) Broadcasting Act 1989

(b) Employment Relations Act 2000

(c) Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993

(d) Harassment Act 1997

(e) New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990

(f) Any convention, treaty or other international instrument having effect in New Zealand by or through any of the foregoing enactments, and not expressly incorporated in New Zealand law by another enactment.

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