The New Zealand Human Rights Commission has confirmed that, if equal marriage becomes legal, carrying out same-sex wedding ceremonies won’t be mandatory for churches.

Concern had been growing within religious organisations that, if same-sex marriages become legal, all religious celebrants would be made to perform them, reported Stuff.nz.

The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, passed its first reading on 22 August, with a majority of 80 votes to 40 in parliament in support of the change.

A select committee is now reviewing the bill, which would normally be over a period of around six months. After that process, it will make a decision on whether or not to recommend it be passed.

The select committee chair, Ruth Dyson, said the committee had considered the balance of celebrants who would oppose versus those who would want to perform the ceremonies. She said:

”The conversation the committee has had… is that it is not our wish to override that religious freedom. That we do think that is quite fundamental. We haven’t made a determination as a committee, that’s been the conversation.”

David Rutherford, chief commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, said that it believes that the equal marriage rights, and religious freedom, can coexist in New Zealand. He said:

”This is as much about religious freedom in New Zealand as it is about marriage equality.” He went on to say that all people should have equal marriage rights:

”Same-sex couples and transgender people should be able to have their commitment to each other recognised publicly in the same way as heterosexual couples.

”Not allowing same-sex couples to marry discriminated against people because of their sex or sexual orientation, he said.

”The commission does not consider that access to a civil union provides same-sex couples with full equality.”

Earlier this week, the select committee heard submissions from two pastors, one who called equal marriage a sin, and an “abomination,” and another who said that incest is “the way it could go” if equal marriage became legal.