Grey Lynn couple Diana Rands and Anna Birkenhead are pleased to find that same-sex civil unions can last - but they also feel there is a social expectation that they will break up.

"When heterosexual people meet each other and get married, everyone is, 'Yay, well done!"' says Ms Rands, 50, who has been in a civil union with Ms Birkenhead, 41, for two years.

"If that was a same-sex couple, it's, 'Oh, it's not going to last.' There is this underlying misinformation that gay relationships don't last, so it's really nice that they actually do."

Society supports heterosexual couples, she says, but gay couples are often shunned. She has heard of children who are banned from visiting friends as soon as the child's mother hears the friend's mother is a lesbian.


"We even hear stories about people who have had civil unions not being invited to the family Christmas dinner."

Ms Rands, a drug and alcohol counsellor, and Ms Birkenhead, a mental health nurse, both feel well accepted in their work and in the suburb they call "Gay Lynn".

"In this area there are a lot of same-sex couples with children. We are accepted easily," Ms Birkenhead says.

But, Ms Rands says: "You just have to visualise the policeman, say - what is it like to be a policeman and be openly gay? His mates are talking about wifey at home and he's thinking, who can I talk to?"

Ms Rands and Ms Birkenhead both have children, now aged 11 to 14, conceived with sperm donors when they were each in previous relationships with other women.

Each describes the other to friends as "my wife". They invited people to their "wedding", not their "civil union", and both asked male relatives to walk in with them.

They even have set roles just like traditional wives and husbands. Ms Rands works fulltime and calls herself "the provider", while Ms Birkenhead works part-time and does most of the childrearing, cooking and other "domestic things".

"I also do the lawns and the DIY stuff - she's crap at it," Ms Birkenhead says.


But they also see some reasons why same-sex unions may not last, especially for men.

"It's different for gay men. They tend to be less monogamous. Most of the boy couples we know have gentlemen's agreements that they can have casual sex, with strict rules," Ms Rands says.

They also know several heterosexual couples who have stayed together only for the sake of the children, a factor that is much less common for same-sex couples.