Churches refuse to marry gay couples
Religious gay couples wishing to wed in Taranaki will struggle to find a church aisle to walk down, even if the Marriage Amendment Bill becomes law.
Taranaki church leaders contacted by the Taranaki Daily News said their religious beliefs meant they would not marry gay couples, even if they had the option.
The Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill which would allow same-sex couples to marry is being considered by a select committee after passing by 80 votes to 40 in a Parliament conscience vote last month.
New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, Whanganui MP Chester Borrows and Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern all voted against gay marriage, while Te Tai Hauauru MP Tariana Turia voted for it.
Earlier this month 70 church leaders including the national heads of major church denominations made a joint statement in response to the bill.
"All human beings are equal in the sight of both God and society, but not all relationships are the same. Marriage has uniquely been about the union of male and female. The state should not presume to re-engineer a basic human institution," it said.
Kim Francis, senior minister at New Plymouth's St Andrew's Presbyterian church, put his name to the joint statement and said he was "totally against" gay marriage and would not marry same-sex couples.
Citywest senior pastor Steve Batten also said he won't be marrying gay couples.
"Marriage should be between a man and wife. That doesn't mean I would be saying to gay people: ‘You can't come to the church'."
He said his views were in keeping with those of the larger Assembly of God group of churches that Citywest belongs to and their leader, Reverend Illiafi Esera, had also signed the collective statement.
Dean Jamie Allen, from St Mary's Taranaki Cathedral, and Archdeacon of Parininihi, Tricia Carter, reiterated the Anglican position, which is that the church is "looking into it."
"Our church has been considering this issue for several years and it is currently being looked at by a commission chaired by Sir Anand Satyanand. This commission is due to report in 2014," Mr Allen said.
New Plymouth Central Baptist Church pastor Martien Kelderman said that as the law stands at this point, he would not marry a gay couple of his faith. He highlighted the fear that the clergy's right to refuse to marry people will be taken away or they will be punished for refusing to marry gay couples.
Mr Kelderman said he was known for refusing to conduct a Christian marriage for his brother.
"I acted as a marriage celebrant for him, but couldn't give him a Christian marriage because he was not a Christian.
"What if a gay couple asks to be married but they aren't Christians? It would be seen as discrimination if I refused to marry them."
Family First gained a legal opinion which challenged a statement by the Human Rights Commission that asserted if the Bill becomes legal, no religious minister will be required to marry a same-sex couple, anywhere, including in a church.
Parliament faces a final vote on the bill within the next year.