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Labour MP’s ‘Legally Wrong’ on Effects of Marriage Bill

20 November 2012
Labour MP’s ‘Legally Wrong’ on Effects of Marriage Bill
Family First NZ has released a legal opinion which calls into question the validity of the assurances given in Parliament during the 1st Reading of the Marriage Amendment Bill by the Bill’s author Louisa Wall, and also points out the legal incorrectness of statements made to a newspaper by Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General Charles Chauvel.

An initial legal opinion (dated 27 Aug 2012) obtained by Family First NZ from Barrister Ian Bassett before the 1st Reading in Parliament stated that marriage celebrants (including church ministers) exercising their public function will be in breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and acting unlawfully if they refuse to perform their public function as marriage celebrants by reason of the same sex of a couple seeking to be married.

On 29 August 2012 in Parliament during the 1st Reading of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, Louisa Wall stated that the Bill did not require any person or church to carry out a marriage if it does not fit with the beliefs of the celebrant or the religious interpretation a church has.

“The New Zealand Law Society submission, along with our latest legal opinion (dated 19 Nov 2012) has now questioned the validity of that assurance given by Louisa Wall in her speech in Parliament,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General Charles Chauvel also accused Family First NZ of ‘bearing false witness’ and ‘scaremongering’ when we raised concerns about the effect of the Bill, but our updated legal opinion (dated 19 Nov 2012) has labeled Chauvel’s statements about the effects of the Bill as ‘legally incorrect‘, ‘imprecise’ and confusing some of the issues,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“It appears Louisa Wall and Charles Chauvel misunderstand the legal implications of the Bill. The public and other politicians are not hearing the full story. The bill should be voted down. The social and legal ramifications are too great.”

Key Points of Legal Opinion - dated 19 November 2012
• s29 of the Marriage Act 1955 does not authorise a marriage celebrant (including a church minister who is a celebrant) to refuse to perform a same sex marriage.
• The assurance given by Louisa Wall in Parliament during the 1st Reading of the Bill, that the Bill did not require any person or church to carry out a marriage if it does not fit with the beliefs of the celebrant or the religious interpretation a church has, is legally wrong.
• If the Bill is passed, then a marriage celebrant (and any church minister in his or her capacity as a marriage celebrant) will not be able lawfully to decline to marry a couple by reason that the couple are of the same sex.
• Statements made by Charles Chauvel confuse the performance of a religious ceremony with the public function of a marriage celebrant.
• If a religious body or group chooses to supply its premises for hire to the public (whether ‘consecrated’ or ‘non-consecrated space’, whether ‘sanctified’ or ‘non-sanctified space’ within a church, mosque, synagogue, tabernacle or temple), then it cannot refuse to do so by reason of any prohibited ground of discrimination in s21 of the Human Rights Act 1993.
• It is not ‘scaremongering’ to state the law.

DOWNLOAD FULL LEGAL OPINION (dated 19 November 2012)

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