HRC: Religious ministers have right to refuse to marry a same-sex couple

“Religious ministers have the right to refuse to marry anyone. That right will not change if the Bill becomes law,” says Human Rights Chief Commissioner David Rutherford. “It will be up to any individual marriage celebrant, including those who are religious ministers, to decide whether or not they wish to marry a same-sex couple.”

The Human Rights Commission says:

If the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill became law no religious minister would be required to marry a same-sex couple, anywhere, including in a church. Section 29 of the Marriage Act states “a marriage licence shall authorise but not oblige any marriage celebrant to solemnise the marriage to which it relates”.

A religious marriage is a core part of practising a religion. Religious officials and leaders are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. In New Zealand, the discretion currently given to marriage celebrants in section 29 of the Marriage Act 1955 allows any marriage celebrant, including religious ministers who are licensed celebrants, the right to refuse to marry someone without breaching the unlawful discrimination provisions of the HRA. In part this reflects the fact that religious ceremonies and services are not an area of public life covered by the HRA. Similarly ceremonial or consecrated spaces, or any other religious premises that are not made available for the public to hire, are not covered by the HRA.


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News category: New Zealand.

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