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.
Reasons for Amendment
- 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
- One of our objectives is to foster support of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in and
- 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
- 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 partners 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 peoples 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.