My same-sex partner and I have emigrated from a state in the US where gay marriage is legal. How is our marriage recognised under New Zealand law?

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Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

Your marriage is not recognised under current New Zealand law. If you had entered into a civil union in Vermont, or a domestic partnership in New Jersey, that would be recognised as a civil union in New Zealand.

However, in New Zealand there is currently no recognised legal right of marriage for same-sex couples - marriage between two same-sex partners is prohibited under the Marriage Act 1955. Accordingly, if you have entered into a legal same-sex marriage overseas, unfortunately it will not be legally recognised in New Zealand.

New Zealand does, however, provide for civil union partnerships under the Civil Unions Act 2004. The Civil Union (Recognised Overseas Relationships) Regulations 2005 lists the overseas civil unions or domestic partnerships that are recognised in New Zealand. These are:
- Registered partnership (Finland)
- Life partnership (Germany)
- Civil partnership (United Kingdom)
- Domestic partnership (New Jersey, USA)
- Civil Union (Vermont, USA)
There is no procedure for "registering" these overseas civil unions in New Zealand - you can simply use your certificate from overseas as evidence of your relationship.

If, as your question suggests, you have been married overseas and have not entered into a civil union, then that recognition will not apply to you. However, you may still be recognised as being in a de facto relationship in New Zealand, and you may be able to enter into a civil union in New Zealand. You will need to check out whether the laws of the US state where you were married permit this, however, as it may in some cases be considered bigamy to enter into a further partnership in New Zealand, or it may otherwise affect your overseas marriage. You should take professional advice if you intend to do this.

Answered 23 May 2012. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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