Civil Union Bill: What the readers say

Readers have responded strongly to "Love and the law", the Weekend Herald's comprehensive news feature on the Civil Union Bill.

The report included a Herald-DigiPoll survey of 750 people, which found that New Zealanders broadly approved of the Government's plans to recognise gay relationships as civil unions but not as marriage.

A majority of those polled agreed with the civil union plan (by 56 per cent to 39 per cent) but disagreed with the idea of gay marriage by almost the same margin (54 per cent to 40 per cent).

Reporters found a similar range of views when they talked to 60 people on the streets. Some people held strong opinions for or against. Others were happy to see the law change but did not see it as controversial.

We also invited you to have your say on the bill. Here are some of the emails received up to yesterday.

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It seems to me that the Civil Union Bill and, indeed, the Relationships Bill, will among other things nullify the practical effectiveness of the Marriage Act. It is apparent from any objective viewpoint that these bills are being promoted as a solution to what has been described as an "unjust discrimination" against homosexuals, and may have more to do with a homosexual agenda than any element of good governance.

- Murray H Pirret

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The Christian Right is attempting to obstruct legislation that, by their own figures, gives a 2 per cent minority a legal right to a freedom that the rest of society has always enjoyed.

Why is the Civil Union Bill perceived as such a threat to our way of life? Most civil unions would be the result of sharing a deep and enduring relationship, a commitment not taken lightly. This could not be said of a great many so-called Christian ceremonies, where the church setting is chosen for atmosphere, the commitment is slight, and the values highlighted are those of a shallow and material way of life. - Judy Lambert

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I want to belatedly thank Sharee Adams for pointing out that the Civil Union Bill "is for such a minority, I don't even know why a Government would want to propose such legislation when there's only 2 per cent of people that fit in the category".

I hadn't realised that we were only discriminating against a minority!

As Miss Adams astutely points out, all laws discriminate against somebody, right? So who better to discriminate against than a group of people who we don't like very much! Here's another great idea: why don't we blame them for the destruction of society while we're at it?

Thanks, Miss Adams. I can sleep easy now, content that we are only depriving perhaps 80,000 people (to use your 2 per cent figure) of the rights afforded to everyone else. - Mike Poynter

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The Weekend Herald poll was confirmation that a solid majority support the Civil Union Bill.

Generally, I think that majority now believes that people should be allowed or enabled to have their way of being and be protected from those who would diminish it.

Not everyone in that majority has experience of or an affinity for fundamental Christianity, tikanga Maori, a same-sex relationship or whatever someone else's way of being is.

That is no problem: they are big and comfortable enough to let others make their place in the sun. - Patrick Hine

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We've had homosexuals living in our society and interacting with our families for many years now. The Civil Union Bill won't change that. This is a law that will allow people (not only homosexuals) to designate a person outside of their family to have the rights of a next of kin. Why is this a bad thing, to be able to cede rights to your life to the person whom you are closest to?

I know no one will explain to me how this bill will destroy traditional family life, because they don't know. They merely recite this particular "fact" by rote like the mindless puppets they are.

As for Miss New Zealand, the reason most young people don't speak up about this bill is that the people doing most of the speaking (as with most causes) are those who feel strongly against it. The majority thinks it is perfectly reasonable, especially the younger generation. - Brad Jones

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I am a happily married heterosexual man and find it disturbing that others in the same position as me see some sort of threat from the looming possibility of same sex partnerships having an equal legal and, more importantly, cultural status.

There is no point at which the possibility of my next door neighbour, being either two married men or women, poses any threat to the relationship that I have with my wife.

Perhaps this should be the litmus test of how my peers should evaluate any legislation. Given a heterosexual marriage failure rate of one in three, I would have thought the recognition of other, equally successful, partnerships could only strengthen the much-feared-for "fabric of society". - Rob Cassels

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Your weekend feature on civil unions was surprisingly disturbing, not because of the reporting, which was fairly balanced, but because of the number of people who think that there is no difference between a same-sex relationship and marriage.

Only a man and a woman can together create human life. Do New Zealanders seriously believe that the ability to produce children makes no difference?

It is a wise society which values the next generation and seeks to protect them as much as possible by protecting the environment which statistically gives them the best chance in life: marriage. - Norman Te Kanawa

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After reading your Saturday feature on civil union, I was surprised how few people really understand what this is all about: state endorsement of same-sex relationships and parenting.

No one has a human right to ask that the law recognise their "loving and committed relationship" so that they can feel better about themselves. Neither is it the Government's job to endorse relationships to promote people's self-esteem.

Same-sex relationships are already recognised in law and are afforded many legal rights. The Civil Union Bill is an attempt to change what society believes about same-sex parenting, telling kids they don't need a mum and dad. It is a social experiment at the expense of children and MPs would be wise to reject it. - Virginia McGrail

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Your civil union feature on Saturday highlighted again how confused New Zealanders are. The "she'll be right" nation seems to think that as long as civil unions don't affect my marriage, what's the problem?

Good law must consider the long-term effects on all, not just the immediate benefits for a few. As a public nurse I know that the claimed benefits of hospital visitation rights and next-of-kin status are a red herring, because these rights already exist and aren't governed by statute anyway.

The problem is that civil unions will teach us to think that motherless and fatherless families aren't anything to be upset about - but they are. We must continue to uphold the public life-long commitment between a man and a woman as the ideal for children; they deserve no less. - Christine McGrail

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The results of the Herald's small survey are not really surprising and show a level of confusion and ignorance. First, civil unions of same sex couples is gay marriage by another name. There are no effective differences between a marriage and a civil union under the proposed new laws.

Secondly, people tend to look at these bills and say "they won't affect me and my life, so why not?". The "why not" comes from the impact they will have on the next generation's perceptions and actions.

The Relationships Bill in particular sends a message that all relationships are equal, from de facto, to same sex to marriage.

Any choice is okay and the level of commitment, the stability and the length of the relationship doesn't matter, irrespective of whether there are children involved.

This attitude will result in more de facto relationships and inevitably more single parent families, with related increases in child abuse, child poverty, sexual promiscuity and crime. That's why not. - Gary Putt

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Thank you for your excellent article on the Civil Union Bill in the Weekend Herald. It confirmed exactly what I had suspected: that most of the country was not against it, that many acknowledge it probably won't affect their lives at all, and that those who oppose it all seem to believe that it negatively affects families, but none went as far as to say how.

Maybe there's some hope for logic after all. - Robert Green

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Marriage is the joining of the lives of a man and a woman at hip and heart and head, sealed before all by solemn agreement and ceremony. To equate anything else breaks English and the facts of life. Human society is people functioning together down through the ages. The purpose and function of such joined lives, both sealed and unsealed, is that continuous existence.

Nothing else can do it. Without it the human race would cease to be. - Nobilangelo Ceramalus

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I cannot believe the hypocrisy of opponents to the Civil Union Bill. The opinion that it will undermine and undervalue the family unit and the institution of marriage is laughable. Have they forgotten that there is a huge sex industry out there, now legal, whose clients are mostly heterosexual married men. - Sybil Vinsen

Herald Feature: Civil Unions

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