File photo Despite assurances from both the Human Rights Commission and the upcoming marriage equality bill’s author Louisa Wall that religious ministers will be under no obligation to marry gay couples, right-wing lobby group Family First has produced a lawyer who claims they will. Barrister Ian Bassett, who represented anti-abortion group Right To Life, claims ministers will breach both the Human Rights Act and the Bill of Rights Act if they refuse to marry gay couples. Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford is adamant this is not true, previously saying: "Religious ministers have the right to refuse to marry anyone. That right will not change if the Bill becomes law. "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." However Bassett claims this is legally wrong. He points out something the Human Rights Commission agrees with; that anyone of any religion providing any other service to the public, such as photographers and caterers, will breach the Human Rights Act if they refuse to supply services to a same-sex couple. Rutherford says the difference is that religious ceremonies, services and private religious spaces are not an area of public life covered by the Human Rights Act. “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." Meanwhile Family First has today presented Parliament with a petition against the marriage equality bill, which it says more than 50,000 people have signed. The bill is due to have its first reading tomorrow and is set to pass.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Tuesday, 28th August 2012 - 5:10pm
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