Recognition of overseas same-sex relationships in New Zealand

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More than thirty jurisdictions across the (Western) world have, since Demark was the first to do so in 1989, created institutionalised means by which same-sex couples can have their personal relationships registered with the State and governed by legal rules, analogous to those applicable to opposite-sex couples through the far older institution that we call 'marriage'. New Zealand, a State with a strong perception of itself as an egalitarian and socially progressive country, did so with its Civil Union Act 2004, which came into force on 26 April 2005, together with a plethora of Amendment Acts bringing civil union partners within the parameters of existing legislation. These Acts are New Zealand's response to the radical but still fairly recent shift in social attitudes towards gay and lesbian people, and same-sex couples, which has accorded us the values of human dignity and equality before the law. This article suggests, however, that New Zealand law tolerates rather than celebrates this new ideal of social justice. It is argued that with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues, New Zealand is a country that follows rather than leads. Especially problematical is New Zealand's approach to recognition of overseas relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-367
Number of pages29
JournalNew Zealand Universities Law Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


  • family law
  • same sex couples
  • marriage
  • New Zealand
  • civil partnership


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