Do It Or Else! Marriage Celebrants Rejected For Personal Beliefs

marriage-park-wedding-vowsMedia Release 3 February 2017
Family First NZ says that people applying to be marriage celebrants are having 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.

In response to a request by Family First NZ to the Department of Internal Affairs under the Official Information Act, 22 potential marriage celebrants have had their applications declined just in the last year because they have stated that they don’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.’ 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,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director 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’.”

“It is interesting to note that both the Prime Minister Bill English and Minister of Justice Amy Adams voted for a proposed amendment which would have allowed for freedom of religion and belief,” says Mr McCoskrie.


In an independent poll of 1,000 people undertaken by Curia Market Research just before the bill was passed in 2013, the poll found strong support for protecting those whose beliefs and conscience disagreed with same-sex ‘marriage’. 80% of respondents said that marriage celebrants should not be forced to perform same-sex weddings if they go against their personal convictions.

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 by Family First about the effects of the proposal 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 religion and belief should fix the anomaly.”

Gay Marriage Exemption ‘Unprincipled’, ‘Discriminatory’ – Legal Opinion

NZ Herald 3 January 2017
Family First Comment: Apparently it’s ok to refuse to offer your services at a Donald Trump inauguration or event, but not at a same-sex wedding #gofigure #toleranceoftheleft

A retired pastor has been barred as a marriage celebrant because he won’t marry same-sex couples.

Auckland pastor Barrie Baker, 65, is one of 22 people barred from becoming marriage celebrants in the past 15 months because they refuse to do same-sex marriages.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie says the rejections breach their rights under the Bill of Rights Act to “freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief”.

“It’s coercing and it’s bullying,” he said.

But the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Jeff Montgomery, said independent marriage celebrants were bound by the Human Rights Act not to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality bill, which legalised same-sex marriages in 2013, exempted celebrants nominated by a church or other approved organisation whose “religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions” do not allow same-sex marriage.

But Baker, who conducted weddings as a pastor for Baptist and other churches for more than 25 years, is now retired and applied to become an independent marriage celebrant after a couple asked him to marry them.

He was on a mission trip in Europe at the time and had to turn them down because his application led to a long exchange with the Internal Affairs Department culminating, after that couple’s marriage, in a rejection.

“I’ve had three other people ask me to marry them. I said I can’t now,” he said.

“I was surprised. There seemed to be no reason except there was blatantly a prejudice against those of a particular faith.

“Marriage originally was a religious institution. Now it looks as if the institution has been hijacked by a minority, a radical minority.”

Another rejected applicant, Christchurch Salvation Army volunteer shop assistant Lesley Erikson, 53, said she was “shocked” when her application was rejected because she would not perform same-sex marriages.

Montgomery said the application form for marriage celebrants did not ask about same-sex marriages, but he had instructed staff to ask about it when they interviewed applicants.

“When I am personally appointing independent marriage celebrants [it is to] provide a public service, so if the celebrant says when we ask in the interview that they are unwilling to provide service to anyone who is legally able to get married, including same-sex couples, then they will not be approved,” he said.

He advised would-be celebrants rejected for this reason to join an approved church or organisation.

“The easy option for them … would be to align with an approved organisation or to create their own organisation the same way as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster did,” he said.

“I approved them [in 2015] on the basis that they had clear philosophical beliefs, albeit unusual ones, thus they were able to nominate marriage celebrants.”

Wall said decisions on who could become marriage celebrants were entirely up to Montgomery.

“It’s got nothing to do with my bill, it’s about how he is determining who is a suitable person to be an independent celebrant,” she said.

Justice Minister Amy Adams, who is in charge of the Marriage Act, said the issue had not been raised with her until now. “I’ve asked my Justice officials for advice,” she said.

Anti-same-sex marriage celebrants’ applications declined
Radio NZ News 3 January 2017
READ MORE:’-applications-declined

Celebrant wants the right to refuse marrying same-sex couples
NewsHub 3 February 2017
Lesley Ericson applied to be an independent marriage celebrant because she wanted to help couples with their special day. Just not same-sex couples.

“I said no, I wasn’t [prepared to marry same sex couples], and I said, I hope that doesn’t have any effect on my application. I immediately got an email saying your application has been declined.”

She was shocked.

“I thought, you’re kidding me, there was nothing along the way indicating that it was going to be an issue”.

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages says she’s not the only one.

“Twenty-two celebrants have been declined out of about 600 over the last year or so and Lesley was one of those because she was unwilling to provide services to same sex couple,” Registrar-General Jeff Montgomery says.

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