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Legal Experts Dispute Human Rights Commission

22 November 2012
Legal Experts Dispute Human Rights Commission On Effects of Gay Marriage

Family First NZ says that the Human Rights Commission is legally wrong on the effects of the Marriage Amendment Bill, and that even the NZ Law Society and 24 members of the law faculty of Victoria University have called both MP Louisa Wall and the HRC’s interpretation of the law in to question in their submissions to the Select Committee.

“The bottom line is that the Human Rights Commission has endorsed and lobbied for this bill since day one, and they should not be depended on for independent legal analysis,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Based on the interpretation of s29 by the HRC and Louisa Wall, a marriage celebrant could lawfully decline to marry a particular couple because they are of different races or because the marriage celebrant disliked persons of a certain race (i.e. racial discrimination). Of course, that is completely unlawful and would quite rightly be a breach of s19 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Legal opinions obtained by Family First NZ from Barrister Ian Bassett say that ‘s29 of the Marriage Act 1955 does not authorise a marriage celebrant to discriminate against homosexuals on grounds of sexual orientation. It is legally incorrect to infer otherwise’. And that ‘...if the Bill is passed in its present form, 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 (i.e. sexual orientation discrimination)’.

“The New Zealand Law Society and the Victoria University law faculty members’ submission, along with our latest legal opinion (dated 19 Nov 2012), has now questioned the validity of the assurances given by Louisa Wall in her speech in Parliament and by the Human Rights Commission in their submission.”

“The Law Society says celebrants may still be bound under human rights guidelines introduced after the Marriage Act and that there is significant doubt around the effect of s29, and members of Victoria University’s law faculty submit that the ambiguity should not be left for the courts to resolve,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“All this uncertainty and potential for costly litigation simply highlights that there are both intended and unintended consequences of changing the definition of marriage, and the Marriage Act should simply be left as is.”


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