Forcing churches to marry gays

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:

  1. A gay couple would have to ask a minister/priest to marry them knowing it mightn’t be well received.
  2. The minister/priest would have to refuse and cite reasons that could be actioned under the Human Rights Act.
  3. The couple would then have to decide to take some action against the minister/priest.

What is far more likely to happen:

  1. The gay couple will find which celebrant/minister/priest is likely to be appropriate.
  2. If the celebrant/minister/priest doesn’t want to marry them they will just say that they can’t do it.
  3. 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.


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