6 December 2006

State of the (Civil) Union: Assessing the Legal Significance of the Civil Union Act 2004 and Relationships Bill 2005

I gave a paper at a conference over the weekend: > LAGANZ: "20 Years On - Homosexual Law Reform Conference": Below is the introduction, with a link to the full paper:
I Introduction Today we are reflecting on gay and lesbian law reform and, in particular, commemorating the first major achievement – the decriminalisation of homosexual conduct in 1986. The way in which I would like to honour the work and accomplishments of those engaged in that law reform movement is to focus one of the most recent law reform projects. One that shares many of the same features: its significance, its controversy, its impact, and hopefully its legacy too. The Civil Union Act 2004 – and its less high-profile but probably more powerful companion, the Relationships (Statutory References) Act 2005 – marked one of the high points of gay and lesbian reform in New Zealand. The reforms created a state mandated relationship registration scheme, allowing gay and lesbian couples to formally register their relationship in an almost identical manner to straight couples. The reforms also largely harmonised the benefits, protections and responsibilities for married, civil union, and de facto couples, ostensibly providing near equality for all couples before the law. But the reforms require greater scrutiny. A sole focus on the meta-level achievements obscures and hides some of the matters of detail. A number of key questions arise from the reforms. How fully did the reforms achieve equality for gay and lesbians? What was missed or left out? What still remains? In this paper I attempt to canvas some of those issues. [continues...]
> Dean R Knight, "State of the (Civil) Union: Assessing the Legal Significance of the Civil Union Act 2004 and Relationships Bill 2005" Comment and feedback welcomed. PS I tweaked the title of the paper to ensure it more accurately reflects the content.

Course Outline

Lord Justice Lawton in Maxwell v Department of Trade and Industry [1974] 2 All ER 122 said:

"From time to time ... lawyers and judges have tried to define what constitutes fairness. Like defining an elephant, it is not easy to do, although fairness in practice has the elephantine quality of being easy to recognise. As a result of these efforts a word in common usage has acquired the trappings of legalism: 'acting fairly' has become 'acting in accordance with the rules of natural justice', and on occasion has been dressed up with Latin tags. This phrase in my opinion serves no useful purpose and in recent years it has encouraged lawyers to try to put those who hold inquiries into legal straitjackets.... For the purposes of my judgment I intend to ask myself this simple question: did the [decision-maker] act fairly towards the plaintiff?"

This course examines the elephantine concept of fairness in the law, along with other contemporary legal issues.

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