A majority of New Zealand churches have said that they will not officiate same-sex marriages, following news that an equal marriage bill has jumped the first hurdle towards becoming law.
Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Orthodox Jews had already prohibited same-sex marriages on their premises, and they have been joined by Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists and many other smaller denominations.
Only a few churches have stood by the bill, which has passed into the second stage of parliament.
Louisa Wall, Labour MP and sponsor of the equal marriage bill, told The Dominion Post that she was not surprised by this kind of reaction to the bill. She said:
“I anticipated that, but that’s their choice. I believe every New Zealander should be free from discrimination but we [also] uphold the right for freedom of religion.
“Over time we may find ministers say, ‘Yes, we will marry.’ One of my ministers [in my constituency] said that for him the Bible is a living document.
“For him it’s about the community that’s in front of him now. If you view it in that context, it [the situation] will change over time.”
Presbyterian minister Margaret Mayman, of St Andrew’s on the Terrace in Wellington who supports the bill, said she believed it will gradually become accepted:
“There’s a fairly familiar pattern,” she said. “First of all people are in denial then gradually admit some exceptions, and then suddenly it’s fine.”
Anwar Ghani, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said Muslim law made it clear gay marriages could not be accepted, and Catholic and Sikh organisations have said the same.
On Wednesday, The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, passed its first reading with a majority in parliament in support of the change. The bill will have to be approved in two more stages of parliament before it becomes law.
In similar news, the country’s 50-year-old adoption laws are also to be debated by parliament in order to potentially bring about changes that would allow same-sex couples to adopt. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern’s Care of Children Law Reform Bill was chosen yesterday from the member’s ballot.