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Civil Union Act
The New Zealand Approach
© June 20, 2007, Demian


“The Civil Union Act became law on April 26, 2005. Same-sex and opposite-sex couples can apply to the office of Births, Births and Marriages for their Civil Union licence.

Prime Minister Helen Clark:

“Despite some of the hurtful claims and dire predictions made by its opponents, this legislation has always been about enabling people in a loving relationship to register it lawfully, and to send a message to society that they are committed to each other for the long haul.”

It was first reported that the same day Civil Unions became law, 600 people registered for a Union. Later reports stated that by May 31, 2005, only 23 female couples, 23 male couples, and 10 opposite-sex couples had joined in civil unions, a total of 112.

By September 3, 2005, the numbers of same-sex civil unions were 136, and opposite-sex unions were 20, for a total of 156. During that same time period, an estimated 3,955 opposite-sex couples were legally married. The numbers of same-sex couples getting a union were about 3 percent, the same percent that is generally presumed for gay men and lesbians in any population.

As of October, 29, 2005, there were 5,000 weddings, and only 205 Civil Unions. Provisional figures since late April showed that there were slightly more gay men signing up than lesbian couples, and far fewer opposite-sex couples.

By April 24, 2006 — a full year since the registrations have been offered — the Department of Internal Affairs stated there had been 458 civil unions. 178 were male, 199 were female, and 81 were opposite-sex couples. The union status was offered as a symbolic gesture and has not been taken too seriously, as there were by comparison, about 20,000 legal marriages during the same time period.

By September 19, 2006, The Registrar General for Births Deaths and Marriages, Brian Clarke, stated that there was a total of 599 civil unions; 226 between males, 264 between females, and 109 between males and females.

The total registrations for 2006 were 430 unions. 397 were New Zealanders, and 33 foreign. Of the residents, 188 were female couples and 131 were male couples.

For further information from New Zealand:
      0800 22 52 52
      www.bdm.govt.nz
Entering into a Civil Union
    [from the New Zealand department of “Births, Births and Marriages (April 25, 2005):”
    www.bdm.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Services-Births-Deaths-and-Marriages-Civil-Union?OpenDocument
A Civil Union is a legal relationship recognised in law in New Zealand. The Civil Union Act 2004 provides the criteria, rules and processes for two people to have their relationship solemnised as a civil union (by way of a formal ceremony) and officially registered in New Zealand. A Civil Union may be entered into by couples of the same sex or by couples of different sexes.

Certain types of relationships that are registered in other countries will also be recognised as civil unions in New Zealand. Civil unions registered in New Zealand may be legally recognised in other countries, depending on each country's laws.

The Civil Union Act 2004 came into effect on 26 April 2005. From this date couples may give notice of their intent to enter into a civil union. A civil union licence will be issued no sooner than three days after the application is made.

In summary:
  • A civil union may be entered into by couples of the same sex or by couples of different sexes
  • A civil union ceremony may be held before either a Registrar of Civil Unions in a Registry Office or by an authorised Civil Union Celebrant
  • Consent to enter into a civil union must be obtained if you are 16 to 17 years of age
  • Couples may change the form of their relationship between civil unions and marriages:
    • Couples who are married to each other, and who wish to continue in a relationship with each other, may change the form of that relationship to a civil union without having to formally dissolve the first relationship (which normally involves living apart for 2 years)
    • Two people who are in a civil union with each other, and who are otherwise eligible to marry, may change the form of that relationship to a marriage without having to formally dissolve the first relationship (which normally involves living apart for 2 years)
Civil Union Ceremony

There are two types of civil union ceremony:
  • A ceremony solemnised by a Registrar of Civil Unions in a Registry Office; and
  • A ceremony solemnised by an authorised Civil Union Celebrant at a place other than a Registry Office.
Registry Office ceremonies take place during normal office hours, but you can have a celebrant perform your civil union ceremony at any time, on any day of the week. For information about locating a Civil Union Celebrant see How to Locate a Civil Union Celebrant.

How to Apply for a Civil Union Licence

When a couple intend to enter into a civil union, they are required to complete the appropriate type of 'Notice of Intended Civil Union' form, which includes a statutory declaration that both parties are free to be joined in civil union and that all the details supplied on the form are correct.

One of the parties must appear in person before a Registrar of Civil Unions to sign the statutory declaration and pay the required fee.

The Registrar will (not sooner than three days after receiving the civil union notice) issue your Civil Union Licence, together with two copies of a document known as a “Copy of Particulars of Civil Union.”

You will need to deliver these three documents to your Civil Union Celebrant before the ceremony.

For further information about entering into a civil union view or print out Civil Union: A guide for couples preparing to enter into a civil union in New Zealand.


If You Ordinarily Live Overseas

If a couple live overseas and want to enter into a civil union in New Zealand you will need to complete a “Notice of Intended Civil Union, where both parties are ordinarily resident outside of New Zealand.”
  • Send the civil union notice (with the required fee) to the Registry Office closest to the place where you want to have the civil union, ensuring that it reaches the Registrar at least a week before you intend to have the ceremony.
  • Collect the Civil Union Licence and the two copies of the Copy of Particulars of Civil Union.
  • If a Registrar is to solemnise the civil union the statutory declaration can be signed before the Registrar immediately prior to the ceremony; otherwise you must sign the statutory declaration when you pick up the licence from the Registrar.
Alternatively, the statutory declaration can be signed, while you are in your home country, in front of a Commonwealth representative (i.e. an authorised diplomatic or consular officer of a Commonwealth country.)

For further information about entering into a civil union view or print out Civil Union: A guide for couples preparing to enter into a civil union in New Zealand.


Changing a Marriage to a Civil Union

A married couple who wish to continue in a relationship with each other may change the form of that relationship to a civil union without being required to formally dissolve their marriage. For them, the process begins with a “Notice of Intended Civil Union, change of relationship from marriage.” They will be required to provide evidence of their marriage.

For further information about entering into a civil union view or print out Civil Union: A guide for couples preparing to enter into a civil union in New Zealand.


Entering into a Civil Union overseas

To determine whether you can enter into a civil union overseas, you will need to:
  • find out what is required by the laws of the country in which you intend to have the ceremony; and
  • make the arrangements yourself.
If the country where you are entering into a civil union requires it, Births, Deaths and Marriages can issue a “Certificate of No Impediment” showing that a search of the registers has found no lawful impediment to the civil union. There is a fee for this service.To get a Certificate of No Impediment you will need to fill out the form Notice of Intended Civil Union of Citizen In Another Country.

Notice of Intended Civil Union Forms

There are three types of civil union notice, each designed to deal with particular circumstances:
The “Notice of Intended Civil Union, change of relationship from marriage” form is used when a couple who are married wish to change their relationship to a civil union.

Paying for Your Civil Union Licence

Civil union conducted at the Registry office
If you wish for your civil union to be conducted by a Registrar at the Registry Office, you must pay a fee of NZ$170.00 when you send in or hand over the completed form. This includes the fee for the civil union licence. Please advise the Registrar at the office where you plan have the civil union ceremony of the date and time for your ceremony. Remember to include contact details (e.g. a telephone number in New Zealand or an address) so that the Registrar can arrange a definite time with you.

Civil union conducted by a Civil Union Celebrant outside of a registry office
The licence fee is NZ$120.00. The name of the celebrant must be given on the form in order for your licence to be issued. The celebrant must be approved to conduct civil unions in New Zealand.

How to pay your civil union licence fee
Registry offices will accept over the counter payments by cheque, cash, New Zealand money order or, in most offices, credit card and EFTPOS.
  • If you are sending payment within New Zealand, your cheque or money order should be made out to: "Department of Internal Affairs". Please do not send cash.
  • If you are sending the fee by post, payment from outside of New Zealand can be made by way of a bank draft (ie a bank cheque, which can be purchased at any bank) in New Zealand dollars payable to: "Department of Internal Affairs".
  • If applying by post, you can also send credit card details (Bankcard, Mastercard or Visa).
Collecting and Using Your Civil Union Licence

A civil union licence is normally issued three calendar days after the Notice of Intended Civil Union is submitted and the fee is paid.

Your civil union licence is valid for three months from the date on which it is issued. During that period you are free to enter into a civil union at the place specified on the civil union licence.

If you change your approved celebrant or your venue, before the civil union has taken place, you must advise the Registry office from where your licence was obtained.


How to Locate a Civil Union Celebrant
   As of April 25, 2005, from the New Zealand department of “Births, Births and Marriages:”
   www.bdm.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/
      Services-Births-Deaths-and-Marriages-How-to-Locate-a-Civil-Union-Celebrant?OpenDocument
Only those persons licensed by the Registrar-General as Civil Union Celebrants and whose names appear in the list of Civil Union Celebrants in the New Zealand Gazette have authority to solemnise civil unions in New Zealand.

Civil unions can also be conducted in Registry Offices by Registrars of Civil Unions, or according to the practices of certain organisations that are exempt from the requirement to have a Civil Union Celebrant present.

Click on the link below for a current list of Civil Union Celebrants in your area:

Alternately a current list will be available from your nearest Registrar of Civil Unions or by phoning 0800 22 52 52.

Not a Model for Family Recognition in U.S.

This domestic partnership status does not work as a model for America, because implementing an equivalent legal status to marriage requires duplicating 150-to-350 laws in each state, and more than 1,138 laws on the federal level. [See U.S. Federal Laws for the Legally Married.] The whole idea is completely impractical.

Further, domestic partnerships are usually not recognized outside of the issuing state. Because of the lack of portability, they create a patchwork legal status as a couple moves or vacations.

While such contracts are an attempt to create equal treatment, they only reinforce a separate and totally unequal status, one we consider to be a manifestation of apartheid. [See Marrying Apartheid: The Failure of Domestic Partnership Status]








Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage
Nations

    Netherlands (2001)
    Belgium (2003)
    Canada (2005)
    Spain (2005)
    South Africa (2005)
    Norway (2009)
    Sweden (2009)
    Iceland (2010)
    Argentina (2010)
    Portugal (2010)
    Denmark (2012)
    France (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    Brazil (2013)
    Uruguay (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    United Kingdom
      (England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
    Luxembourg (2014)
    Finland (2014)
    Ireland (2015)
    Colombia (2016)
US States & Territories

    Massachusetts (2004)
    California (2008)
    Connecticut (2008)
    Iowa (2009)
    Vermont (2009)
    New Hampshire (2009)
    District of Columbia (2009)
    New York (2011)
    Maine (2012)
    Washington (2012)
    Maryland (2013)
    Rhode Island (2013)
    Delaware (2013)
    Minnesota (2013)
    Illinois (2013)
    Utah (2013)
    New Jersey (2013)
    Hawaii (2013)
    New Mexico (2013)
    Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Oregon (2014)
    Wisconsin (2014)
    

    Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Pennsylvania (2014)
    Indiana (2014)
    Nevada (2014)
    Virginia (2014)
    Oklahoma (2014)
    Idaho (2014)
    West Virginia (2014)
    Alaska (2014)
    Arizona (2014)
    Wyoming (2014)
    Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Florida (2014)
    Colorado (2014)
    North Carolina (2014)
    South Carolina (2014)
    Montana (2014)
    Alabama (2015)
    U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
      Ruling: All U.S. States must now
      allow same-sex couples the
      freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes

    Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
    Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
    Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
    Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
    Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
    Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
    Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
    Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
    Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
    Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
    Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
    Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)

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