Celebrants Still Being Rejected

MEDIA RELEASE: Celebrants Still Being Rejected Despite Assurances


8 March 2023

Family First NZ says that people applying to be marriage celebrants continue to have their applications rejected if they do not want to officiate at same-sex ‘weddings’ due to their personal beliefs or convictions, despite assurances by politicians that this would not occur, and despite comments by the director-general of Births, Deaths and Marriages in 2020 that “the market should decide”.

In response to a request by Family First NZ to the Department of Internal Affairs under the Official Information Act, almost 100 potential marriage celebrants have had their applications declined since the end of 2015 (the department could not provide numbers for the 2.5 years before that when the law first changed), because the celebrant doesn’t want to officiate at same-sex weddings due to personal conviction.

“This flies directly in the face of assurances made by Labour MP Louisa Wall when she introduced the bill to Parliament. She said ‘…What my bill does not do is require any person… to carry out a marriage if it does not fit with the beliefs of the celebrant’,” says Bob McCoskrie, CEO of Family First NZ.

The report of the Government Administration Select Committee considering the bill at the time stated: ‘It is our intention that the passage of this bill should not impact negatively upon people’s religious freedoms… it does not seek to interfere with people’s religious freedoms.’

“Yet, as Family First NZ argued at the time based on legal advice, the advice of the Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Justice and the resultant recommendation of the Select Committee would interfere with people’s rights to act according to their beliefs and conscience. Once again, Family First concerns and the legal advice have been proven right and justified. The legal advice referred to the exemptions as ‘unprincipled’, and ‘discriminatory’.”

In a poll by Curia Market Research released in 2019, 61% said that marriage celebrants should not be required to perform same-sex weddings if these go against their personal convictions. Only 31% said they should.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act states that everybody has the right of freedom of religion and belief, and the right to manifest that belief or view. A legal opinion obtained at the time by Family First about the effects of the law change said; “Such coercion by the State is contrary to ss13 and 15 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990’.”

“This law currently provides a culture of coercion whereby celebrants or registrars will not be lawfully able to refuse to perform a same-sex marriage by reason of the same-sex of the couple, despite the politicians promising otherwise. Despite all the hype and sales pitch, this significant social change has failed to deliver what was promised, and politicians who support the right of freedom of conscience and belief should fix the anomaly.”

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