Gay marriage uncelebrated
With gay marriage moving closer to law in New Zealand, some South Canterbury celebrants are uneasy.
The second reading of the Marriage Amendment Bill passed by 77 votes to 44 on Wednesday night, meaning it is almost certain to become law.
Thirty gay couples were registered as living in South Canterbury in the 2006 census.
Some ministers and celebrants fear discrimination if they refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
The bill states "no celebrant who is a minister of religion . . . and no celebrant who is a person nominated to solemnise marriages . . . is obliged to solemnise a marriage".
But Geraldine celebrant Pat Fallon was concerned those who chose not to perform the ceremonies would be discriminated against.
"Obviously if the law changes, the law changes, and you have to follow suit."
He was unsure whether he would perform same-sex marriages if the bill became law.
Civil unions adequately met the needs of same-sex couples who wished to commit to each other, he said, and said it was wrong for a minority group to dictate to the majority.
Life Church Timaru pastor Gordon Rosewall said the definition of a marriage was clear.
"It's between a man and a woman, and I see right now that we are changing that definition."
He said if the bill was to pass it must protect churches and celebrants who choose not to perform same-sex marriages.
"Otherwise we end up with a whole other group of people who are discriminated against."
He urged healthy debate between the two sides "even though we stand on opposite sides".
Connect Community Church pastor Mike Coe said the legislation was "game-changing".
His beliefs would prevent him from marrying same-sex couples.
"I believe it's fundamentally between a man and a woman.
"It's such a huge issue and I think society has no real idea of the impact that such a significant change will bring.
"It opens the door to a whole lot of others changing."
Mr Coe said the Timaru Christian Ministers' Association, which he chairs, had "loosely" discussed the issue. There were differing views and it was decided ministers would respond individually.
Waimate celebrant Billie Parker said she would welcome the change.
"I certainly am very comfortable in marrying same-sex couples who love each other and want to be married.
"I think it's perfectly appropriate, really."
She had not yet been approached to marry a same-sex couple. She has, however, officiated at a civil union between two men in Tekapo, which she said was a "real privilege".
Waimate Anglican-Presbyterian parish vicar Indrea Alexander said clergy were not able to comment, and referred the Herald to the Anglican Diocese office in Christchurch.
A spokesman told Fairfax none of its churches would perform same-sex marriages because "marriage is currently defined as between a man and a woman".
No one from the Sacred Heart Basilica or Presbyterian parish was available to comment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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