An issue that keeps coming up in marriage equality discussions is referred to in this blog comment:
I have some concern that the Churches who disagree with gay marriage will be forced to perform marriages under the Human Rights Act. I do not consider this legislation should force churches into a position that is contrary to their beliefs and hopefully this is addressed.
Louisa Wall addressed this in her speech introducing the bill in parliament last night:
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. Section 29 remains in place and makes it clear that once a marriage licence is obtained by a couple, it does not oblige a minister or celebrant to marry that couple. That is the situation now and nothing will change.
So it will be no different to how things are now.
I think this is a very unlikely scenario. To become an issue it would take several things to happen:
- A gay couple would have to ask a minister/priest to marry them knowing it mightn’t be well received.
- The minister/priest would have to refuse and cite reasons that could be actioned under the Human Rights Act.
- The couple would then have to decide to take some action against the minister/priest.
What is far more likely to happen:
- The gay couple will find which celebrant/minister/priest is likely to be appropriate.
- If the celebrant/minister/priest doesn’t want to marry them they will just say that they can’t do it.
- If the couple are turned down they will find someone appropriate and willing to marry them.
Of course a gay couple couod deliberately choose to ask a celebrant/minister/priest who is unlikely to be comfortable marrying them, the celebrant/minister/priest could say they won’t do it becasue they are gay, and the gay couple could then take action under the Human Rights Act.
But this is very unlikely – and no more likely than a non-gay couple taking action now. Does it ever happen? I haven’t heard of it.