Churches & Celebrants Not Protected By Marriage Bill

26 February 2013

Media Release 27 February 2013
Family First NZ says that the proposed Select Committee amendments to the same-sex marriage Bill will not protect places of faith from having to host ‘same-sex weddings’ if their facilities are available to the general public, and marriage celebrants who are not part of approved mainline churches or approved organisations will not be lawfully able to refuse a request to marry a same-sex couple by reason of the same-sex of the couple.

The Select Committee acknowledges in its own report (pg4) that the proposed exemption will only apply to 1/3’rd of all marriages (22,000 p.a.) conducted in New Zealand as only 32% of marriages are conducted by a church or organisational marriage celebrant. The balance of 68% (15,000) are conducted in a registry office by a registrar or an independent marriage celebrant.

“This amendment is totally different to what Labour MP Louisa Wall promised when she introduced the Bill to Parliament,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “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.’ The proposed Select Committee amendment contains no protection for an independent marriage celebrant or registrar, and the personal conviction or beliefs of celebrants from approved organisations will not be protected unless the organisation holds the same view.”

“This Bill will provide a culture of coercion whereby celebrants or registrars that don’t fall within the exemptions will not be lawfully able to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage by reason of the same-sex of the couple. This proposed Select Committee amendment undercuts Louisa Wall’s assurances to Parliament, and provides a much narrower exemption than that provided by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act which states that everybody has the right of freedom of religion and belief, and the right to manifest that belief or view.”

Churches, synagogues and mosques will also be caught.

“An earlier legal opinion Family First received said that ‘churches supplying services to the public will be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1993, if they refuse to supply services to a couple seeking to be married, by reason of the same sex of the couple’. Louisa Wall argues that churches already face this issue – but she is incorrect.”

“Churches do not already have to host ‘same sex weddings’ in their churches, because there is no such thing yet as a ‘same sex wedding’. That issue will only arise if the bill is passed. A ‘same sex wedding’ in a church, mosque or tabernacle would signify acceptance of the ‘marriage’. That would be entirely new and would certainly not be business as usual for churches. It would seriously prejudice the religious freedoms of churches and ministers,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Despite all the hype and sales pitch, this bill has failed to deliver what was promised, and politicians should vote against the Bill.”

ENDS

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