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When will the discrimination end?

The Campaign for Civil Unions

05 December 2005

When will the discrimination end?

Less than a year since Parliament passed the Civil Union Act, extremist MPs are promoting discriminatory legislation, says Campaign for Civil Unions spokesperson Jeremy Lambert.

“Given the bill’s first promoter Larry Baldock lost his seat at the recent election, you would have thought the bill’s supporters might have learnt a thing or two about the dangers of promoting discrimination in a forward-focused democracy,” says Jeremy Lambert.

The Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill will be tabled in Parliament next Wednesday, at which time MPs will consider whether to send the bill to select committee.

The bill seeks to amend the Marriage and Bill of Rights Acts by defining marriage as “between one man and one woman” and allowing discrimination in favour of married couples over others, including those in civil unions.

“The amendment to the Marriage Act merely restates the existing legal reality and is, therefore, unnecessary. It is a shame that some of our MPs find it necessary to restate and reinforce discriminatory law,” says Jeremy Lambert.

“However, it is the second part of the bill that is absolutely unacceptable,” says Lambert. “Freedom from discrimination is one of the cornerstones of our society and the country has reinforced this principle in our Bill of Rights.”

“The extensive debate around Civil Unions last year resulted in good law that treats all New Zealanders fairly. The promoters of this bill are merely attempting to make same-sex couples second-class citizens.”

ENDS


Factsheet: Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill


What is the Bill?

This Bill is a Member’s Bill introduced in the last term of Parliament by Larry Baldock, now taken over by United Future’s Gordon Copeland. It is due to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, 7 December 2005 at which time MPs will consider whether to send the Bill to a select committee.

The Bill does two main things:

1. It proposes to amend the Marriage Act 1955 to define marriage as “between one man and one woman”. It also specifically states that “a person may not marry a person of the same gender” and prevents the recognition of same-sex marriages from overseas.

2. It proposes to amend the anti-discrimination protections in the Bill of Rights to say that measures which “assist” or “advance” marriage do not amount to discrimination.

What is the Campaign’s position on the Bill?

The two different parts of the Bill raise different issues.

The proposed amendment to the definition of marriage generally confirms the legal reality and is therefore unnecessary. Our Court of Appeal in the Quilter case ruled that, in New Zealand law, marriage could only be between a man and a woman. Therefore the proposed amendment does no more than restate the status quo explicitly in legislation.

The Campaign regrets that some of our MPs find it necessary to attempt to restate and reinforce the discrimination against same-sex couples by excluding them from a form of relationship recognition open to others.

The proposal to exempt measures which assist or advance marriage from anti-discrimination protections is, however, unacceptable. Freedom from discrimination is one of the cornerstones of our society and the country has reinforced this principle of equality in our Bill of Rights. The Attorney-General has already warned Parliament that this Bill is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and an unjustified breach of freedom from discrimination.

The recent debates about civil unions show that there are no objectively justifiably reasons for treating married and (same-sex) civil union relationships differently. This Bill is a smokescreen which tries to undermine the measures taken to remove the discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. The promoters of the Bill are simply trying to, once again, raise the arguments about the differences between heterosexual and homosexual relationships that were firmly rejected by our Parliament when it passed the Civil Union Act.

This attempt to introduce a specific exception to the freedom from discrimination is also unsound in legal principle. Presently our laws insist any specific departures from the rights and freedoms in our Bill of Rights be scrutinised closely and be objectively justified. This attempt to amend the Bill of Rights would mean these measures would escape this scrutiny – which the Campaign considers is especially abominable because these measures lack any rational basis.

What can you do?

We are confident this misconceived attempt to promote inequality and to take our country back to pre-Civil Union days does not have the support of most of our MPs. However, you can express your opposition to the Bill by writing a short note or email to your local MP or any of the other MPs who will be voting on the Bill. Letters can be sent free of charge to , Parliament Buildings, Wellington or for full contact details of MPs, see: www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/YourMP/ListMPs.

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