[JURIST] The New Zealand Parliament has approved legislation recognizing same-sex civil unions. The bill, approved Thursday by a vote of 65-55, gives same-sex couples the same rights, entitlements and obligations as married couples and allows them to formally register their relationships under the New Zealand Births, Deaths and Marriages Act. It enters into force April 26, 2005. New Zealand's Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope, who presented the legislation, released a statement noting that
Marriage remains something solely available to a man and a woman. Civil unions offer an alternative to those unable to marry, or who do not wish to marry. Civil unions are to be a new relationship option that takes nothing from anyone else, while providing choice to people currently denied such... This Bill takes away nothing, but gives that simplest of things the formal recognition and respect by our laws for the individual choices of New Zealanders.From Wellington, TVNZ has more.