Submission to the Government Administration Select Committee concerning the De Facto Relationships (Property) Bill
We ask that Clause 17 of the Bill be amended to include same-sex couples.
Many gay and lesbian people live as couples.
They contribute jointly to homes in the same way as heterosexual couples.
The existing law does not provide adequate protection for a surviving partner in a gay or lesbian relationship.
Partners in a gay or lesbian relationship make non-financial as well as financial contributions to the management and development of their homes.
The home of a gay or lesbian person is a principal form of saving for retirement.
Where a gay or lesbian couple have children, one or both of the partners may forego income in order to provide that care.
The Bill contravenes the Human Rights Act and is inconsistent with stated Government Policy regarding discrimination.
There should be one law for all.
This submission has been discussed by a representative group of the Galaxies membership.
Galaxies is a group of some 70 lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people who meet twice monthly for worship and on other occasions for workshops, house groups, retreats and study.
Forty of its members live as couples.
Galaxies is an ecumenical organisation, with members coming from all mainstream churches.
One of our objectives is to foster support of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in and beyond Wellington.
Reasons for Amendment
As members of a gay and lesbian community organisation, we find that we are being excluded in Clause 17 of the Bill from legislation which will provide protection for heterosexuals. Some of us (over 50 % of our membership) are living as couples. We also note that in a survey (Male Call) conducted by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, half of the 1852 men responding who have sex with men were in relationships. We are concerned for ourselves and also for other gay and lesbian people living as couples or who may do so in the future.
In our experience we have bought homes together as couples, and paid off mortgages, met the costs of home improvements, household furnishings and equipment, insurances, and maintenance. We have also put in hours of work painting, papering, gardening and so forth. Those of us who have children have contributed as couples to their care and upbringing. Moreover, one or both of the partners in such couples may forego income in order to provide that care.
The financial input to our homes is a substantial part of our saving for retirement. Under existing law, we have inadequate protection of this investment. We are all too well aware of gay and lesbian couples where the surviving partner has been unable to keep their share in a property in the face of claims from the deceased partner’s family. This is a particular risk in a society where homophobic attitudes persist, notwithstanding the legal changes which have been made in recent years.
The Bill contravenes the Human Rights Act. It is inconsistent with stated Government Policy regarding discrimination. In a press release of 7 May, the Minister of Justice said "When Cabinet agreed in October to wind up the Consistency 2000 project, we also agreed that all Government policy would be required to be non-discriminatory unless specifically exempted by legislation or regulation". The Prime Minister also stated this in a letter of 16 February to Galaxies. She said "This recognises that Government policy should only discriminate where Parliament by legislation or the Government by regulation (subject to disallowance) considers discrimination justifiable in a particular context". However, there is no justification for discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the De Facto Relationships (Property) Bill.
In her letter of 16 February to Galaxies, the Prime Minister also said "In New Zealand, legislation is the means by which the people’s representatives in Parliament decide on competing values and priorities. In respect of current legislation it is appropriate that issues of unjustified discrimination, where they arise, are able to be addressed when that legislation is next reviewed. This permits the issues to be considered in their full policy context." Again, the Government is being inconsistent with this stated principle when it declines to include same-sex relationships in this particular piece of legislation.
We find it unsatisfactory to propose separate legislation for same-sex relationships. It is in itself discriminatory to put a legislative focus on sexual orientation rather than consider the rights of gay men and lesbians alongside others in the context of legislation for particular purposes, whether this be de facto relationships, next of kin, employee or insurance benefits or whatever. Moreover the Government has no omnibus Bill on its legislative programme for issues of concern to gay men and lesbians.