The Department of Internal Affairs confirmed last month – after a request from Family First New Zealand under the Official Information Act – that the department had declined 47 independent celebrant applications based on the intention on the part of the application not to solemnise same-sex marriages since September 7, 2015.
Applications made before September 2015 were made in paper format and could not be reviewed without significant research.
The department said it had not received any complaints about marriage celebrants who were unwilling to solemnise a same-sex marriage.
But it added that independent marriage celebrants “must make themselves available to all persons legally to marry in New Zealand and cannot refuse to solemnise any marriage due to reasons that would contravene the Human Rights Act 1993”.
Family First New Zealand national director Bob McCoskrie said the rejected applications contradicted assurances made by Labour MP Louisa Wall when she introduced the Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill to Parliament in 2012.
She said: “What my bill does not do is require any person or church to carry out a marriage if it does not fit with the beliefs of the celebrant or the religious interpretation a church has.”
But she added that while churches could discriminate, the state could not and should not. “It is not the state’s role to sanction heterosexuality or homosexuality.”
She Wall said the bill was about opening up the institution of marriage to all people who were eligible.
“There is no reasonable ground on which the state should deny any citizen the right to enter the institution of marriage if he or she chooses. That is not the process of inclusion,” she said.
“To any person concerned about their own beliefs and how they wish to celebrate marriage, it is important to always remember that this bill allows a couple to only obtain a marriage licence. It does not mean that a minister or celebrant must marry the couple.”
Wall said in an email on Friday that organisational celebrants were authorised through a separate process to independent celebrants and could refuse to solemnise marriages.
She directed Stuff to the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages for comment on why the 47 applications were rejected.
Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages Jeff Montgomery said it was important to distinguish between organised celebrants and independent celebrants.
Organised celebrants were nominated by organisations, and those organisations needed to be recognised by Montgomery as “a formal organisation with marriage purposes”, he said.
“Once registered, they can then nominate people to be celebrants for their organisation,” he said.
“Independent celebrants, however, are providing a public service, and they are acting on behalf of the Government and are required to comply with the Marriages Act and other relevant legislation.”
One of the criteria for independent celebrants is they be willing to obey and comply with the law, including the Human Rights Act.
“If they are not willing to comply with the Human Right Act, ie they will choose to discriminate against certain members of the public, then I can’t appoint them,” Montgomery said.
All organisational celebrant applications have all been approved since September 2015, regardless of whether they choose to solemnise same-sex marriages or not, he said.
“When Louisa Wall put forward that legislation, that ability was included – organised celebrants are not obliged to marry any couple.”
McCoskrie said politicians “who support the right of freedom of belief and conviction should fix the anomaly”.
“The bill … did not protect the consciences of independent marriage celebrants who are not lawfully able to refuse a request to marry a same-sex couple by reason of the same-sex of the couple.”
In the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference”.
47 would-be marriage celebrants rejected because they refuse to carry out gay weddings
NewsHub 28 April 2018
There have been no complaints about marriage celebrants refusing to perform gay weddings, it has been revealed.
But it appears that’s because the Department of Internal Affairs has refused to approve applications from would-be independent celebrants that refuse to carry them out.
Forty-seven applicants have been rejected since September 2015, according to documents released under the Official Information Act to conservative lobby group Family First.
Under the law, organisational marriage celebrants aren’t required to carry out gay weddings if it contravenes their religious beliefs. Independent marriage celebrants however “must make themselves available to all persons legally able to marry in New Zealand and cannot refuse to solemnise any marriage due to reasons it would contravene the Human Rights Act 1993”.
Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the documents contradict claims made by Labour MP Louisa Wall, who introduced the same-sex legislation through Parliament, that celebrants wouldn’t be made to carry out same-sex weddings if they didn’t want to.
“When the Bill was rushed through to its final reading, it still did not protect the consciences of independent marriage celebrants who are not lawfully able to refuse a request to marry a same-sex couple by reason of the same-sex of the couple.
“This law currently provides a culture of coercion. Politicians who support the right of freedom of belief and conviction should fix the anomaly.”
READ MORE: http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2018/04/47-would-be-marriage-celebrants-rejected-because-they-refuse-to-carry-out-gay-weddings.html
Would-be celebrants miss out over marriage equality opposition
Radio NZ News 28 April 2018
Nearly 50 people have been turned down as marriage celebrants because they refuse to solemnise same-sex marriages.
The Department of Internal Affairs said 47 applications to become independent celebrants had been turned down since 2015.
The Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, Jeff Montgomery said celebrants affliated with a religious or philisophical organisation could choose who they offered their services to.
But independent marriage celebrants provided a service on behalf of the government, rather than an organisation, he said.
That meant they must comply with all the relevant laws, including the Human Rights Act, which makes it an offence to discriminate based on sexuality.
The number of declined applications was a small proportion of the 500 people who apply each year to become celebrants, Mr Montgomery said.