The Human Rights Commission has confirmed the passage of Louisa Wall's marriage equality Bill would not prevent religious ministers from refusing to marry gay couples. "Religious ministers have the right to refuse to marry anyone. That right will not change if the Bill becomes law," says Chief Commissioner David Rutherford. "It will be up to any individual marriage celebrant, including those who are religious ministers, to decide whether or not they wish to marry a same-sex couple." Rutherford says this right already exists in section 29 of the Marriage Act 1955 which states that a marriage licence "shall authorise but not oblige" any marriage celebrant to solemnise that marriage. He says the position also reflects international human rights law, as a religious marriage is a core part of practising a religion, religious officials and leaders are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. The Chief Commissioner says everyone is entitled to have and express their own personal beliefs, including religious beliefs. He adds it is unlawful to discriminate against someone in any area of public life that is covered by the Human Rights Act (HRA), because of their sexual orientation or religious belief, unless there is an explicit exception in the HRA. "Religious ceremonies, services and private religious spaces are not an area of public life covered by the HRA. This means a Minister or religious organisation can choose who is able to be married in their ceremonial or consecrated spaces such as a church or temple," Rutherford says. "Same-sex couples have the same right as other New Zealand couples to freedom from discrimination in public spaces." He explains that when religious organisations provide goods or services or accommodation to the public they are held to the same non-discrimination standards as others. "If a church rents out its hall to members of the public it would be unlawful to refuse to rent the hall to a same-sex couple because of their sexual orientation." LIVE COVERAGE GayNZ.com Daily News will report live from Wednesday's Marriage Equality street march through downtown Wellington and throughout the bill's presentation to Parliament, with team coverage from our journalists and photographers along the march route, within the Parliamentary Press Gallery and amongst the bill's supporters in the public gallery.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Friday, 24th August 2012 - 3:30pm
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