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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pairs register for New Zealand civil unions

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Pairs register for New Zealand civil unions

Tue Apr 26, 8:35 PM ET
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SUMMARY: In New Zealand, more than 600 people have been registered by the Department of Internal Affairs to have civil union ceremonies, the first of which will likely be held on Friday.

A new law took effect Wednesday in New Zealand that allows same-sex couples to enter into civil unions that confer the same legal status as marriage.

More than 600 people have been registered by the Department of Internal Affairs to have civil union ceremonies, the first of which will likely be held on Friday. According to Australia's The Age newspaper, it takes three days for the government to process civil union licenses.

Couples must be at least 18 years of age to register for civil unions.

Tim Barnett, a gay politician who helped steer the new law through Parliament last year, told the newspaper that he had expected more couples to have signed up by now.

"I am surprised, but people know it's not going to disappear next week," he said. "It's now the law, and people don't have to rush into it."

Writing for GayNZ.com, commentator Craig Young also noted that the new law took effect without much protest from opponents.

"I think most of our fellow New Zealanders have realized that a pack of rabble-rousing fundamentalists were the only ones getting into hysterics about civil unions, and don't mind us having our day at the registry," he wrote.