Row over refusal to wed gays

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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