Introduction

This submission is from the Humanist Society of New Zealand. The Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.) represents the interests of non-theistic people in New Zealand. We seek to build a more humane society based on human and other natural values. New Zealand census figures indicate that 25% of the population have no religious beliefs and that 40% of New Zealanders have not indicated any specific religious belief.

Our organisation is an affiliated member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) with nearly 100 member organisations worldwide. This represents about 5 million members. Both the IHEU and the Humanist Society of New Zealand are strong supporters of Human Rights and are opposed to unjustified discrimination against minorities.

The Council of the Humanist Society of New Zealand endorsed this submission after consultation with the Societies members.

Submission

The Humanist Society of New Zealand supports both the Civil Union Bill and the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill.

The Society supports these Bills as it considers that all New Zealanders should have equal rights. These Bills remove unjustified discrimination against a large number of heterosexual, homosexual, and unmarried couples.

We do not think that the Bills will adversely affect the institution of marriage. These Bills will not take away the love that people have for one another in a relationship or in a family.

Some religious people are strongly for civil unions while other religious people are strongly against them. In situations like this, the government should allow couples to have a legally recognised civil union ceremony if this is their choice, and allow others to opt out of a registered marriage or civil union if this is their choice, without any resulting discrimination. This is consistent with allowing New Zealanders freedom of religion or belief and freedom from religion.

The Humanist Society encourages the Committee to support the passing of these Bills and thanks you for the opportunity to submit on these two Bills.

Same-Sex Couples and the Law
Submission from the Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.)

Introduction

The Humanist Society of New Zealand is an incorporated society representing the interests of non theistic people who seek to build a more humane society based on human and other natural values through human capabilities. New Zealand census figures indicate that 25% of the population claim to have no religious beliefs and that more than 35% have not indicated any specific religious belief.

The Humanist Society of New Zealand is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) with nearly 100 member organisations worldwide represents about 5 million members. Both the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the Humanist Society of New Zealand are strong supporters of Human Rights and are opposed to discrimination against minorities. The International Humanist and Ethical Union endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the first opportunity to do so.

At the 14th World Congress of the International Humanist and Ethical Union held in Mumbai, India, in January 1999 a resolution was overwhelmingly passed supporting the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and affirmed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee as applicable to these people.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This document is neutral on the subject of same-sex marriages. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has however affirmed that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights encompasses equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The following article is relevant.

Article 16
1: Men and Women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and is entitled to the protection by society and the state.

The Mumbai resolution of the IHEU passed in January 1999 included the following:

B. IHEU calls on governments to:

4. afford same-sex partnerships the full protection of the law, equal to marital, and other legally recognised mixed-sex partnerships, with regard to pension, inheritance, taxation, and social security, custody and adoption, donor insemination and other services, in which discriminatory policies and practices currently exist.

9. a. recognising that same-sex sexuality is no disorder, nor disease, let alone reason for forced psycho-medical treatment;

Endorsement.

This submission on the subject of same-sex marriages was endorsed by the National Council of the Humanist Society of New Zealand on Sunday 2 April 2000.

Responses to the Questions

The following are the responses of the Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.) to the sixteen specific questions asked in the Ministry of Justice Discussion Paper released in August 1999 and titled Same-Sex Couples and the Law

QUESTION 1 ? What are your views about same-sex couples being able to marry?

Response: We support the right of same-sex couples to marry and for the marriage to be legally recognised on the same basis as marriages of opposite sex couples.

QUESTION 2 ? If same-sex couples can?t marry, what do you think about same-sex couples being able to formalise their relationship in some other way (eg registration)?

Response: We consider this a less desirable alternative and oppose it for the following for the following reasons:

1. Denying same-sex couples the same right to marry that opposite-sex couples have is clearly discriminatory.

2. Insisting that same-sex couples can register a relationship but not marry will if enacted in law become entrenched and difficult to change in the future.

We would however accept this as a less desirable alternative if some of the discriminatory aspects are removed by also allowing opposite-sex couples the alternative of registration.

QUESTION 3 ? How do you think registration should work?

Response: Registration should give registered couples the same rights as a married couple.

(This answer is subject to the provisos relating to the adoption of children and assisted human reproduction shown below that apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.)

QUESTION 4 ? What are your views about opposite-sex de facto couples being able to formalise their relationships in some other way (eg registration)?

Response: If registration is introduced as an alternative we would support this also being available to opposite-sex couples. This would make registration less discriminatory.

QUESTION 5 ? Do you think same-sex couples should have the same rights as opposite-sex couples to jointly adopt children?

Response: Yes. We consider that a same-sex couple should have the right to jointly adopt a child on the same basis as opposite-sex-couples.

(This answer is subject to the provisos relating to the adoption of children and assisted human reproduction shown below that apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.)

QUESTION 6 ? In what circumstances do you think a same-sex couple ought to be able to have joint legal parent status?

Response: We consider that a same-sex couple should have the same right to have joint legal parent status as opposite-sex-couples.

(This answer is subject to the provisos relating to the adoption of children and assisted human reproduction shown below that apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.)

 

QUESTION 7 ? What are your views about same-sex couples being able to be joint parents of a child born from an assisted human reproductive procedure that they both agree to?

Response: We consider that same-sex couples should be able to be joint parents of a child born from an assisted human reproductive procedure that they both agree to?

(This answer is subject to the provisos relating to the adoption of children and assisted human reproduction shown below that apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.)

QUESTION 3, 5, 6 & 7 ? Provisos relating to the adoption of children and assisted human reproduction.

We consider that New Zealand adoption law, laws relating to assisted human reproduction and other relevant laws should be amended to conform to our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) signed by New Zealand on the 13 March 1993 and the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Social and Legal Principles Relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children (UNDPC), that New Zealand helped formulate, adopted by General Assembly resolution 41/85 on 3 December 1986.

In answer to Questions 3, 5, 6 and 7 we consider that the following provisos should apply in all cases of adoption, joint legal parent status and assisted human reproduction and shall apply equally to opposite-sex and sex same-sex parents:

1. The best interest of the child shall be paramount.
(UNCROC Article 21 & UNDPC Article 5)

2. The child shall have the right to know both genetic parents
(UNCROC Article 9 & UNDPC Article 3, 4 & 9)

3. That when a couple adopt a child together or use assisted human reproduction to conceive a child they shall have a long term and stable relationship, preferably of more than two years duration, with indications that the relationship will be a lasting one. (UNDPC Article 5)

4. That when a couple adopt a child together or use assisted human reproduction to conceive a child, either one parent shall be a genetic or birth parent of the child or a close genetic relative of the child, eg. an aunt, or where this is not possible the best interest of the child, particularly the child?s need for affection and the right to security and continuing care, shall be paramount when selecting the parents. This shall not exclude same-sex couples. (UNDPC Article 3, 4 & 5)

5. That when considering the suitability of parents the child?s interests and safety shall be ensured by considering such factors as advanced age or inability to care for children, a history of mental instability, alcohol or other drug abuse, crime, violence, sexual abuse, rape, child abuse or molestation, and paedophilia, as grounds for refusal. (UNCROC Article 19 & UNDPC Article 14)

QUESTION 8 ? What is your opinion of a same-sex couple both having the right to parental leave if one of them gives birth or adopts a child?

Response: We consider that same-sex couples should be allowed parental leave if one of them gives birth or adopts a child on the same basis as opposite-sex couples.

QUESTION 9 ? What are your views about same-sex and opposite-sex couples being assessed in the same way for income support purposes?

Response: Same-sex couples should be assessed in the same way as opposite-sex couples for income support purposes ? but only if they are given other rights, such as the right to marry.

QUESTION 10 ? What are your views about same-sex and opposite-sex couples being assessed in the same way for tax credit entitlement?

Response: Same-sex couples should be assessed in the same way as opposite-sex couples for tax credit entitlement ? but only if they are given other rights, such as the right to marry.

>QUESTION 11 ? What are your views about same-sex couples being assessed in the same way as opposite-sex couples when it comes to deciding whether people are eligible for legal aid?

Response: Same-sex couples should be assessed in the same way as opposite-sex couples when deciding eligibility for legal aid ? but only if they are given other rights, such as the right to marry.

QUESTION 12 ? What do you think about there being a law on dividing property when same-sex relationships break down?

Response: The law on dividing property when same-sex relationships break down should be the same as that for married or defacto opposite-sex couples as applicable.

QUESTION 13 ? What are your views on the law on custody and access being changed to take account of same-sex relationships?

Response: Yes, the law on custody and access should be changed take account of same-sex relationships.

QUESTION 14 ? What is your opinion of the law being changed to recognise same-sex couples when a partner dies without a valid will?

Response: Yes, the law should be changed to recognise same-sex couples when a partner dies without a valid will.

QUESTION 15 ? What are your views about same-sex partners being able to make claims against the estate of a dead partner who hasn?t properly provided for them?

Response: Yes, same-sex couples should be allowed to make claims against the estate of a dead partner who hasn?t properly provided for them.

QUESTION 16 ? In your opinion, what areas of the law need to be changed so that same-sex relationships are recognised in the way opposite-sex relationships are when a partner dies?

Response: The Holidays Act 1981, The Coroners Act 1988 and Jury Duty should all be amended to recognise same-sex couples.