Submission on Civil Union Bill

Scott Wilson
President
Phone 021 934 384

6 August 2004

Chair
Justice and Electoral Committee
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON

CIVIL UNION BILL AND RELATIONSHIPS (STATUTORY REFERENCES) BILL

Background

Libertarianz is a registered political party under the Electoral Act 1993. Libertarianz stood 5 candidates at the 2002 General Election in 5 electorates, and intends to contest both the party vote, and electorate vote at the next General Election. Libertarianz is the only political party in New Zealand which believes explicitly and consistently in the sovereignty of the adult individual over ones body, property and life. Libertarianz believes that the power and legitimacy of the state can only come from powers and rights that citizens themselves hold, and since no citizen has the right to initiate force or fraud against any other, the state has no right to initiate force. The state only has the right to protect people from others initiating force or fraud, and to provide an objective system for adjudicating disputes of contract or breaches of rights. Libertarianz believes in the absolute inviolability of private property rights and it is in this context that it proposes that the foreshore and seabed be held in private title.

Summary of position

Libertarianz supports these Bills in principle, because it believes the only role for the state in adult relationships is to provide a legal framework to enforce the terms and conditions that people consent to in marriages or other formalised relationships, and to allow those relationships to be dissolved. Libertarianz fully supports the concept of a civil union and would also support allowing marriages between same sex couples, and indeed polygamous marriages or marriages between people who are already related — in all cases as long as all parties are adults and consenting.

Libertarianz believes that it is not for Parliament or any other individuals to judge the nature of relationships that adults enter into. While it is not before the House, Libertarianz would strongly endorse amendments to legislation on Marriage that:

1. Allows explicitly same sex marriage and civil unions on the same basis as female-male marriage.

2. Allows explicitly polygamous marriage, and civil unions, as long as it has the express consent of all parties involved (who would all be 18 and over).

3. Allows marriage between people who are related, and are adults (this would also require a repeal of the criminal law prohibition on incest for those 18 and over).

While much of this would offend and make many people uncomfortable. Libertarianz believes it is not for the state to judge adult relationships. There are adults who live together in groups of three or more, sharing property, sexual relations and otherwise having a close personal relationship. If they wish to enter into a marriage or formalised relationship, which recognises joint contributions to property, child rearing and the right, there should be no legal prohibition on them doing so. Similarly, while it offends many, the same rights should apply to people who are related, as long as they are adults and consent. Just because something makes people feel uncomfortable does not give them the right to stop others from doing something that is, for them, satisfactory.

Marriage should be defined to be a ceremony, whether formal or informal, private or public, between two or more people who declare themselves, under whatever arrangements they choose, to be married, and the state of their relationship after that time until they declare, in accordance with those arrangements or by mutual consent, that the marriage has ceased. All the state exists for in those arrangements is to enforce the terms and conditions that apply, and if none are explicit, have some standard terms and conditions to cover all eventualities (e.g. conditions for termination, succession, rights on death of partner, rights related to children).

Having said that, Libertarianz is prepared to generally support both Bills, as a step in the right direction.

Libertarianz wishes to appear before the committee to present the submission orally.

Detailed view on both Bills

Civil Union Bill

Libertarianz supports all clauses with the following exceptions:

Section 7 (1) (c) – do not support. If all people expressly consent, we are not opposed to a civil union of more than two people.

Section 9 (and 7 (1) (b)- We do not agree with the restrictions on unions in Schedule 2. As long as both parties are 18 and above and consenting, it is not the business of Parliament to deny the ability for a relationship to be entered into under contract. The taboo on incestuous adult relationships not only does not stop them from happening, but also has little basis for prohibition beyond it outraging the personal predelictions of many people. Opposition to homosexual relationships is typically on the same basis.

People of the same sex have loving committed relationships that are no less valid than heterosexual marriages, and given the significant number of heterosexual marriages fraught with unhappiness, despair and infidelity, the notion that same sex couples should not also be able to get married is a nonsense, largely driven by irrational fear and personal religious conviction. Marriage is NOT about having children, it CAN be, but is not necessarily so — as many married couples who choose to be childless — such as the Prime Minister and her husband — can testify to.

Marriage should also not be seen as exclusively a couplet. Besides several religions which have allowed polygamy (Seventh Day Adventist, Islam), there are people who form emotional, intellectual and physical bonds in groups of three or more. These are rare. However, just because they are not common and make many feel uncomfortable because of their unfamiliarity or because of personal distaste but their rarity and the discomfort and unfamiliarity that such relationships, particularly because of sexual content, p

Section 10 — Unnecessary if Section 9 does not proceed. However, if Section 9 proceeds we would continue with Section 10.

Sections 17 and 18 are supported. However, the ability to convert a civil union into a marriage or vice versa should be a contractual matter. The terms of doing that in future should be explicit in each marriage or civil union from now on, past marriages should be convertible into a civil union under the terms of these sections.

Section 19 supported. There is no reason why 16 and 17 year olds cannot enter into contractual civil unions, as they can contract their property and labour as well.

It is also not clear how a civil union can be dissolved. It should be possible for any person in a civil union to dissolve it, expressly, without the consent of any of the other parties, but with the requirement to give notice of the dissolution and for the dissolution to be witnessed.

Relationships (Statutory References) Bill

Libertarianz generally supports placing legislation on a neutral basis in terms of sexuality and sex, but this Bill is only necessary because of a set of privileges and discrimination surrounding relationships that is inappropriate. For example, there should not be tax advantages or welfare payment advantages from being in relationships or not being in relationships. Libertarianz would ultimately abolish all compulsory welfare and dramatically reduce taxes, so that the difference between a couple receiving welfare and an individual would be irrelevant. Libertarianz does not believe that the state should offer advantage or disadvantage on the basis of marriage or civil union. However, if the private sector wishes to do so, it should be freely allowed to do so, on terms and conditions that it believes are appropriate for whatever advantages it wants to grant any individuals.

Section 46 — disagree, as we believe civil unions should be allowed in the cases proposed for the Second Schedule

Recommendations

That the Civil Union Bill and Relationships (Statutory References) Bills proceed, with amendments to remove all discrimination in relation to marriage on the grounds of sex, and presence of existing relationships. However, we strongly call upon the Committee to recommend for changes to legislation to allow for same sex marriages in particular, this would follow changes in several European countries. We would also request that it consider seriously removing all restrictions on adults entering into polygamous marriages, as long as ALL parties to the relationship consent.

Scott Wilson
President
Libertarianz
PO Box 5515
Lambton Quay
WELLINGTON