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Civil union 'well worth it'

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    Civil union 'well worth it' - 30-Dec-2005
    Colin Hewens spent a long time in a dark, cold closet, but today the 66-year-old Tauranga man is enjoying some Manawatu sunshine, thanks to this year's civil union legislation.

    Mr Hewens and his partner, Steve Richards, 37, were the seventh couple to take advantage of the Civil Union Law passed in April to formalise their relationship.

    The couple are at the annual Vinegar Hill gay camp near Hunterville to see in the New Year with hundreds of homosexuals from around New Zealand and overseas.

    Eight months on from the passing of the contentious Civil Union Bill, the couple are happy with their decision to "unionise".

    "It was just a statement to the world that we're glad this legislation has gone through and to affirm that there are stable relationships in the gay community," Mr Hewens says.

    "Not everybody's rushed into it. There are a lot of people who are just waiting for the appropriate time to confirm their relationship with a civil union. More and more people are accepting it as a good thing to do," he says.

    Mr Richards says many couples are biding their time before taking the plunge.

    "They're just sort of sitting back and seeing how it develops and how it will advantage them," he says.

    More than 250 couples have entered into a civil union since the law took effect, 44 of them heterosexual couples.

    Almost 10,000 couples got married over the same period.

    Mr Hewens and Mr Richards met on the internet and were together for about six years before they entered into a civil union.

    "It was the first serious relationship for both of us," Mr Hewens says.

    "I was in the closet until I was 58, Steve was in the closet until he was 30.

    "I said, `I'm going to be honest and I don't care what my straight friends think.' "

    Mr Hewens had "strong connections" with an evangelical Christian church at the time he came out.

    "They didn't mind (that I was gay) as long as I stayed in the closet. The vast majority of my so-called Christian friends don't have anything to do with me now and that's okay - that's their problem.

    "The large majority of New Zealanders couldn't give a stuff about civil unions, but the extreme Christian branch won't accept that homosexuality is a God-given gift to us and have been polarised against us."

    Mr Hewens says $74 a fortnight was docked from his superannuation after his relationship gained legal status, "but it was well worth it".
    Ref: - Manawatu Standard - Vinegar Hill

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