Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Gay weddings ban: Churches say no

Same-sex marriage is legal, but religious leaders are closing their doors to gay couples. Photo / Dean Purcell
Same-sex marriage is legal, but religious leaders are closing their doors to gay couples. Photo / Dean Purcell

Gay marriage has been legalised by Parliament - but it is still banned by most of New Zealand's 10 main religions.

A Herald survey has found that five of the top 10 - Catholics, Baptists, Ratana, Mormons and Muslims - are unlikely to bend their strict opposition to gay marriages despite last week's 77-44 vote in Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage.

The Anglicans are also opposed, at least for now.

The new law says celebrants from organisations approved to conduct marriages are not obliged to marry a same-sex couple if it is against "the religious beliefs or philosophical or humanitarian convictions of the approved organisation".

Catholic bishops' spokeswoman Simone Olsen said: "No Catholic priests will be conducting same-sex marriages, and no Catholic church will be used as a venue."

Auckland Anglican Bishop Ross Bay issued a statement yesterday instructing his clergy not to marry same-sex couples until a commission chaired by former Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand reports on the issue in May next year.

"In the meantime the church will continue to work with its definition of marriage as between a man and a woman," the bishop said.

"Priests of the Auckland diocese are expected to work within that understanding."

But liberal Anglican minister Rev Glynn Cardy of St Matthew-in-the-City said a gay couple could marry in his church as long as they used a minister from another church.

"If a Presbyterian or Methodist minister came with a heterosexual couple and said can we marry here, the answer would be yes, therefore we would say yes to a gay or lesbian couple in the same way," he said.

"The marriage would take place in an Anglican church but would not be taken by Anglican clergy."

Mangere-based Maori Anglican priest Rev Hirini Kaa said the Maori part of the church had not issued instructions on the issue, and he would be willing to marry a gay couple.

"There is a large group of Anglican clergy who would happily and proudly marry a same-sex couple," he said.

Presbyterian moderator the Rt Rev Ray Coster said a general assembly voted last October, with 75 per cent support, to uphold marriage as "the loving, faithful union of a man and a woman".

"All ministers are expected to abide by the decision that marriage is a loving, faithful union between a man and a woman," he said.

But a bid to prohibit ministers from conducting same-sex marriages narrowly failed to get the 60 per cent support needed to become church law, allowing ministers to conduct such marriages if they choose to do so.

Methodist general secretary Rev David Bush said the Methodist assembly had not taken a position on the issue and left it up to each local church.

Baptist national leader Rev Craig Vernall said Baptist churches were independent and were also free to make their own decisions, but he believed the vast majority would refuse to conduct gay marriages or allow them in Baptist churches.

"We are looking at probably 1 or 2 per cent who would go down the track of conducting gay marriages at this stage," he said.

Hindus, who were slightly more numerous than Baptists in the 2006 census, have left the issue to individual priests.

"There is no central divinely determined authority to dictate to temples or priests or indeed any individual what is right and what is wrong," said Hindu Council spokesman Dr Rajiv Chaturvedi.

"In accordance with this thinking, we support the view that marriage should be under the purview of civil law rather than any kind of real or imaginary static and un-evolving 'divine law'."

Auckland Zen Centre sensei (teacher) Ven Amala Wrightson, who chairs the NZ Buddhist Council, said she would be happy to conduct a same-sex marriage but she could not speak for all 30 or 40 Buddhist groups in Auckland.

"I don't know what the response would be in all the different branches of Buddhism because there are so many."

The Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Jeff Montgomery, said last night new forms would be available from August 19 for all couples wanting to get married.

The words "bride" and "bridegroom" are expected to remain on the marriage forms but the department was looking at options for people who did not want to use those terms.

Read more: Church wedding out for gay law advocate

- NZ Herald

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