Amendment to same-sex marriage bill pleases ministers

By Sonya Bateson

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Tauranga religious leaders are pleased a parliamentary select committee has recommended ministers should be allowed to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.

The government administration committee said the private member's bill to legalise same-sex marriage should progress, but with an amendment to make it clear that no church minister was obliged to marry someone against their own beliefs.

Reverend John Hebenton from St George's Anglican Church in Gate Pa said the committee's recommendations were great news.

"I applaud the recommendation ... I put in a submission with people from my parish in support of this bill and I also applaud the amendment," Mr Hebenton said.

Matua Community Baptist Church pastor Martin Armstrong said he was against the bill but was happy with the amendment.

"I think that ministers have to be confident in their own personal beliefs and it would be wrong for them to do something they disagree with," Mr Armstrong said.

God intended marriage to be between a husband and wife, he said.

"I feel that by opening it up to include people who aren't included in God's definition, it is diluting the institution as it has been upheld in the past," he said.

Mr Armstrong said he would not marry a same-sex couple due to his personal views and thought most Baptist pastors would feel the same way.

Reverend Paul Williamson, co-vicar of Holy Trinity Church, said he would also make use of the amendment if passed into law.

"I am not in favour of same-sex marriage. Marriage by definition, by historic nature, and by theological understanding is a male and female covenant, and civil unions provide all necessary social and legal definition and protection for those in a same sex relationship," he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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