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Broad Support For Civil Unions Shown With Ad

Campaign for Civil Unions (Auckland) Inc.


Campaign demonstrates broad support for civil unions with ad

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A full-page newspaper advertisement in support of the Civil Union Bill has appeared in the Sunday Star Times today. Over a thousand people have signed their names to the advertisement.

“Recognising the relationships of same-sex and de-facto couples who are currently excluded from a package of benefits, protections and responsibilities available to other couples is a fundamental social issue”, said Michael Wallmannsberger, a co-ordinator for the Campaign for Civil Unions, the group which organised the ad.

The advertisement has precedent when, in 1985, groups took out advertisements for and against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill and in 1984 when New Zealanders took out full-page advertisements in newspapers in the United States defending New Zealand’s nuclear free policy.

Campaign Co-ordinator, Michael Wallmannsberger says that the arguments put forward by opponents of the civil union legislation are strikingly similar to those put forward in 1985. “Those who want to perpetuate discrimination against lesbian and gays haven’t moved on much in twenty years”, said Mr Wallmannsberger.

“I was only eight when the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was before Parliament but I remember the controversy and knew then that it related to me, although I didn’t understand how”, said Mr Wallmannsberger. “The people who stood up for the rights of gay men and lesbians in 1985 fundamentally changed my life.”

The campaign managed to identify about a hundred people who signed the 1985 ad in favour of Homosexual Law Reform through its networks. “I wrote to these people thanking them for taking a stand in 1985 and inviting them to stand up for justice once again – and a number of them did”, said Mr Wallmannsberger. “There’s been a lot said about civil unions that amounts to moral panic. We’re prepared to put our names to this and let history be the judge”.

The ad has been entirely funded by donations from individuals and organisations that support the civil union legislation. “By organising this diverse and distinguished group of people to put their names – and their money – toward the ad, we have demonstrated civil unions are an important social issue and that the legislation before Parliament has broad public support”, Mr Wallmannsberger said.

“What you see here is the work of an enthusiastic group of volunteers and the support of ordinary and distinguished New Zealanders”, Mr Wallmannsberger continued.

The campaign sought signatures for the ad through its website and e-mail networks and set up stalls in public places. Conor Roberts, a campaign organiser, said that the response from the New Zealand public had been encouraging. “People on the street where always interested to talk to us about civil unions and the overwhelming majority supported what we were doing”, Mr Roberts said.

New Zealand expatriates and overseas supporters have signed the advertisement too. David Friar, a campaign supporter now in New York has pinned a copy of the advertisement to his office wall. “They like the compromise part of it. Here, the issue has essentially been fought over gay marriage, which has really polarised people. The title of the institution might be different but it gives the same rights and benefits. Given where society is currently at, it’s a practical solution”, Mr Friar said.

The Campaign for Civil Unions begins distributing colour A2 posters of the advertisement to MPs in their electorates this week and at Parliament next week. “The message we’re taking to Parliament is that New Zealanders support the Civil Union Bill and Relationships Bill. We’re asking MPs to think beyond the narrow arguments that have been put against the Bills by opponents at the Select Committee and in the media and concentrate on how the lives of real New Zealanders will be affected by the Bills”, said Mr Wallmannsberger.


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