Civil Unions Come to New Zealand: Chris Carter Has Fought Long and Hard to Make His Country the First in the Southern Hemisphere to Provide Full Rights to Same-Sex Couples

Article excerpt

Widely known as one of the Southern Hemisphere's most gay-friendly places, New Zealand is poised to join the ranks of those nations that provide marriage or marriage-like rights to gay and lesbian couples. Earlier this year a civil union bill was passed by the New Zealand parliament, and recent polls have consistently shown that a majority of residents support it. At press time the bill was be fare a select committee and was expected to pass a final parliamentary vote in November.

One of the bill's strongest proponents has been Chris Carter, a representative for the rating Labour Party, who in 1993 became New Zealand's first openly gay MP. Carter currently serves as minister of conservation, local government, and ethnic affairs. A former secondary school teacher and poultry farmer, Carter, 52, lives with his 47-year-old partner of 31 years, Peter Kaiser. During a recent Los Angeles stopover he spoke with The Advocate about gay rights in New Zealand.

What rights do gay New Zealanders already have?

Quite a few, actually. We cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. We have [the same] property rights as married couples. Same-sex couples have the same immigration rights as heterosexual couples. Very soon gay people will have the right to adopt. The final step will be the ability to register partnerships. That will give us full equality.

How long has the fight for civil unions been going on?

The Civil Union Bill has been part of the Labour Party's policy since 1999. It's been slow in coming because a great many pieces of legislation had to be adjusted. The bill is one of two, the other being the Relationships Bill, which amends all existing laws relating to marriage. All told, it took about a year and a half to work through properly and prepare these two bills to go through parliament. …


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