Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: The Up-Front Guides: The Weasel Translator

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  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    It already is.

    Not entirely. Ministers of religion are also marriage celebrants, are they not? That church wedding has both cultural/religious and legal significance, does it not?

    This is where I (and I believe TracyMac also) see a problem. To give China as an example (and I believe the same principle holds true for Germany, France and others):

    There are 'official' (People's Organizations, not government departments) bodies that govern Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, and the Protestant (all united under the Three Self Patriotic Movement) and Catholic Churches. There is also the State Council's Bureau of Religious Affairs, the government body that overseas such things. There is also the branch of the Ministry of Civil Affairs that registers marriages and divorces. You're free to marry in any official mosque, church, or temple (although I do believe a religious wedding outside any official place of worship would be technically illegal), but that doesn't have any effect on your legal status as a couple, as your imam/abbot/Daoist master/pastor/priest is not a celebrant in the civil/legal sense. Your marriage is not legally recognised until you and your spouse have gone into the registry office in the relevant branch of the Ministry of Civil Affairs with the requisite documents and photos, filled out and signed the necessary forms, and been presented with your marriage certificates (two, one for each spouse) with the necessary stamp.

    In other words, in properly, fully secular states there is absolutely no overlap in religious and civil functions. In New Zealand we do have such an overlap in marriage and in our head of state being head also of the C of E.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2152 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Danielle,

    Call me wimpy, but “isn’t it great that older people who disagree with me will die?” isn’t exactly the tack I want to take on this issue.

    It’s not mine either, not least because it’s horribly lazy to equate age with homophobia. Sonja Davies was sixty three when she voted for homosexual law reform and Fran Wilde acknowledged her as a staunch ally and mentor. US conservative luminary Theodore Olson was just shy of seventy when he went magnificently off-message to represent the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

    Perhaps it's just me, but I suspect the likes of Richard Prosser and Winston Peters would be bigoted arseholes at any age.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    This is where I (and I believe TracyMac also) see a problem.

    What problem?

    People are free to choose their religion and undertake a marriage according to their beliefs freely and without undue regulation. Where is the problem?

    As far as I can tell the only "problem" suggested here is that in NZ it might not be possible to force a religious person to officiate the marriage of a couple the religious person does not wish to have marry. But this does not impinge upon anybodies right to marry as there are always other choices of officials.

    In other words, in properly, fully secular states there is absolutely no overlap in religious and civil functions.

    Try wearing a burqa in Paris or being a scientologist in Berlin. And you say China has "absolutely no overlap in religious and civil functions"... umm... just wow.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    What problem?

    Religion is still mixed in with the state, in that people whose jobs are primarily religious are also discharging a civil function.

    Try wearing a burqa in Paris or being a scientologist in Berlin. And you say China has “absolutely no overlap in religious and civil functions"… umm… just wow.

    Not saying any of these places are perfect, just that quite a variety of countries (I would add Turkey to the list) do a better job of separating church and state than NZ does. Yes, they do all take a step or two too far in their restriction of religion, but they do all (vagaries of local officials aside) maintain a strictly secular state.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2152 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    Other than what Chris has been explaining, my other point is mainly about the angst that certain religious types have about the "sanctity of marriage". If it were reinforced that marriage is now a civil ceremony despite its roots (and those roots are in fact part of what I find distasteful about it), then perhaps all that bleating would stop.

    Churches are still entitled to be as bigoted as they please in our laws (although perhaps not going to US extremes, as shown this week), so you can have your ceremony as "sanctified" as you like. But not legal until acknowledged in the approved civil manner.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 487 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Not exactly, it isn't. Celebrants and ministers can take the marriage vows and declarations that comprise a legal ceremony.Sure, it still needs to be registered, but a registrar is not required to hear the declaration (witness the oath, so to speak) if an approved celebrant has.

    In Germany, and possibly other European countries, a celebrant's role is purely ceremonial. And has no legal relevance.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 487 posts Report Reply

  • Tess Rooney,

    The thing about separating clerics and civil celebrants is that then if you have a secular wedding with a civil celebrant you're married according to the State. If you, say, have a wedding at a Hindu temple or a Catholic church then you aren't married at all. To get married you still have to go and see a civil celebrant.

    Another way would be to separate weddings and the legal paperwork entirely. Everyone has to get the official marriage registration at the Registrars Office and then have a wedding as they see fit.

    Since May 2009 • 257 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Tess Rooney,

    To get married you still have to go and see a civil celebrant.

    Which is no great hardship, in my experience. A simple matter of preparing the right documents and photographs in advance, trundling down to the office, and filling out the right forms.

    Everyone has to get the official marriage registration at the Registrars Office and then have a wedding as they see fit.

    Which is precisely what my wife and I and many another couple did, and it works, and I argue for this or a similar system because it gets couples legal recognition and allows religious/cultural recognition without mixing church and state. The only improvement I would make to the system under which I got married would be the marriage equality bill Louisa Wall has put forward.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2152 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Tess Rooney,

    Another way would be to separate weddings and the legal paperwork entirely. Everyone has to get the official marriage registration at the Registrars Office and then have a wedding as they see fit.

    Which, with a lot of contortions, is pretty much what New Zealand's next head of state did with his second marriage: A civil ceremony at Windsor Town Hall followed by a "solemn blessing" at St. George's Chapel. (Which still raised the hackles of a number of divorced Anglicans who were told in no uncertain terms they would not be allowed to re-marry in any way, shape or form in an Anglican church.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    You might find that the ability of the NZ state to compel people to act against their religious faith is (thankfully) significantly less than I/S presumes. If a Catholic or a Salafist have a religious belief that they cannot perform a marriage that means they can not perform a marriage.

    I think you’re giving more power to s15 of the BORA than is intended. A civil servant such as a Work and Income officer (for example) could not refuse to grant a benefit to a person just because they have a genuine religious belief that that type of person shouldn’t receive state support.

    So a priest or minister could not refuse to act on the civil aspect of their role. So it’s exactly as Emma described in the quote you pulled: a priest or minister can refuse to perform the non-civil aspect of their role in marriage (i.e. they won’t bless the union with their sacrament etc). However, in their capacity as a civil celebrant surely they have to do their job?

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Note s29 of the Act though.

    A marriage licence shall authorise but not oblige any [marriage celebrant] to solemnise the marriage to which it relates.

    Obviously intended to allow celebrants to refuse to solemnise marriages if they have an objection to them.

    Is a discriminatory objection legal? Is it legally discriminatory to refuse to marry a same-sex couple? If it is legally discriminatory, does s29 the Marriage Act along with s4 BORA protect that discrimination?

    I dunno. I mean, I'd imagine that a Anglican couple who complained a Catholic priest wouldn't marry them would have difficulty getting a sympathetic court, but on the other hand discrimination based on religion, right?

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Steve Parks,

    Perhaps - and it's an interesting ambiguity someone might want to test in court one day. But I'm still not seeing how the claims that marriage equality is some kind of "attack on religious freedom" is anything other than pure bullshitanium.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Steve Parks,

    I think you’re giving more power to s15 of the BORA than is intended. A civil servant such as a Work and Income officer (for example) could not refuse to grant a benefit to a person just because they have a genuine religious belief that that type of person shouldn’t receive state support.

    If you are refused a social welfare benefit, for whatever reason, this is recorded and will be a hurdle to gaining that benefit. If you are refused a marriage licence by a church, this is not a hurdle in any way whatsoever to gaining a marriage licence ever.

    By your reasoning would a comment deleted from a website be a violation of free speech rights?

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    Churches don't give out marriage licenses, they act on them. The Registrar must give a license except in certain specified cases. Refusal of solemnisation by a church is allowed by s29. (But would, say, a refusal to marry an Japanese couple 'cause of racial prejudice be allowed? Haven't the foggiest, don't know enough.)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    But I'm still not seeing how the claims that marriage equality is some kind of "attack on religious freedom" is anything other than pure bullshitanium.

    The only way it gets construed as such is by interpreting of the Bill of Rights as meaning that changing the civil law will legally force mosques to defy Allah and grant marriage licences to same sex couples. People of such diverse opinions as Emma Hart and Bob McCroskie concur that it is indeed an attack on religious freedom.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Good point, that is what I should have replied to Steve with.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    People of such diverse opinions as Emma Hart and Bob McCroskie concur that it is indeed an attack on religious freedom.

    The, and I mean this sincerely, fuck? "Religious freedom" ends, like other rights, at the border with other people. There is no religious right to be a fuckwit to other people. There is also no religious right to perform a state function. Certain religious leaders (and only some) are currently awarded a state function, but performing that function is not a religious right. As has already been said, "mosques" (churches, synagogues, etc) do not grant marriage licences.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    (But would, say, a refusal to marry an Japanese couple ’cause of racial prejudice be allowed? Haven’t the foggiest, don’t know enough.)

    My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that I, as a celebrant, can refuse to marry anyone. For example, I've said I won't be celebranting themed weddings. (I only dress in medieval costume for specific purposes.*) And certainly, it would be hard to prove that if I say "sorry, I am busy that day", I was doing it for a more nefarious reason.

    And as has been said upthread, seriously, why would you want someone who doesn't like you or your lifestyle, to marry you?

    And yes, as has been said, the church does not grant marriage licenses. The Department of Internal Affairs does. The marriage has to be solemnised by a celebrant, either an independent one, or an organisational one. Churches - and some other organisations - can apply to have any minister or member approved as a celebrant. For independent celebrants, it's rather more a rigmarole. The marriage ceremony dictated by any particular church is significantly different to the actual legal requirements.

    * And I was totally joking, for the record.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    There is also no religious right to perform a state function.

    Well, there shouldn't be, anyway. Our official Head of State is also the head of the Church of England, and has both of those positions by birthright, something that also has male-preference primogeniture built in. Hopefully we'll get to that one day.

    I think religious celebrants shouldn't be bigots, and the right not to be affected by bigotry should be protected in law, but practically, who wants to be married by a bigot that is bitter on them anyway? Even if there were legislation to force celebrants to marry gay people overriding their own personal views, it would be impractical to insist on it in any case. The priest could always just call in sick on the day, or deliberately fuck the proceedings up, lose the keys to the church, forget to bring the papers, etc.

    It seems likely to me that any gay people wanting a religious service will simply choose a celebrant who is not a bigot.

    However, hopefully, just by the legislation making gay marriage possible (and I really do hope this passes, it really gives me goosebumps when stuff like this happens, when millenia of prejudice are finally overridden by reason), hopefully a lot more religious celebrants will show that actually, they're not all arseholes, and get on with sealing the deal for their gay flock. I'd expect them to find it's actually good for their churches.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    "Religious freedom" ends, like other rights, at the border with other people.

    Yes it does, if you go to a church and force them to witness a marriage that violates their religion you are being a total fuckwit to them. You are trampling on their religous beliefs and spitting in their faces.

    You seem to believe that civil law grants us the right to be total hateful fuckwits to religions we do not like and force them to violate their beliefs for our own petty amusement. I disagree and think the law protects their rights.

    As has already been said, "mosques" (churches, synagogues, etc) do not grant marriage licences.

    Indeed. So what is the problem?

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    It’s quite interesting, really. I am not sure what the actual position is.

    A refusal to celebrate themed weddings doesn’t seem discriminatory. A refusal to marry divorced people does. A refusal to marry Catholics does. A refusal to marry Japanese people does.

    (Those are all prohibited grounds of discrimination in the HRA.)

    But I think that it is currently thought a refusal to marry divorced people is legal, and then why not the rest? Too hard for me to understand at any rate.

    Obviously no-one wants to be married by someone who’d rather not, but there may well be cases where there is only one celebrant available. Common-law marriage is an option there I guess, but.

    [ETA: Also don’t suppose you could force someone to perform a civil ceremony on its own anyway. What if they say: well, can’t do civil ceremony, that’s against my beliefs, and I can’t perform the religious one in this case because it’s also against my beliefs?]

    Since Jul 2008 • 1376 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    Indeed. So what is the problem?

    I don't believe anyone has suggested forcing a church to solemnise a marriage, Angus. The question people have been asking is if a church _does_ refuse to do so, on grounds that they don't approve, could that conceivably be a breach of human rights legislation?

    The "problem" is that while we don't actually believe in our rights to be "hateful fuckwits", the church DOES. They are asking MPs to deny a group of people the right to marry, based on their beliefs.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    You seem to believe that civil law grants us the right to be total hateful fuckwits to religions we do not like and force them to violate their beliefs for our own petty amusement.

    Yet somehow, Angus, I’m pretty relaxed with civil law totally hating on people who use ‘God told me to do it’ as a defense for torturing the mentally ill, genitally mutilating little girls, stalking and harassing apostates, or (to drag this vaguely in the direction of the OP) the Marriage Act’s tiresome insistence that you can legally only marry one person at a time. If thinking slicing off a child's labia is faith-based barbarity on a par with witch-dunking constitutes "petty amusement,” I guess I have to plead guilty on all charges.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    Obviously no-one wants to be married by someone who’d rather not, but there may well be cases where there is only one celebrant available. Common-law marriage is an option there I guess, but.

    The DIA makes pretty sure there are the "right" amount of both organisational and independent celebrants around the country, though. Interestingly, one of the reasons that it's so hard to become a civil union celebrant is that there hasn't been nearly as many civil unions as they forecast when the legislation came in.

    Basically, the only think I know is that when I am handed a marriage licence form, it says that it "authorises but does not require" me to marry the couple.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Angus Robertson,

    Yes it does, if you go to a church and force them to witness a marriage that violates their religion you are being a total fuckwit to them. You are trampling on their religous beliefs and spitting in their faces.

    You seem to believe that civil law grants us the right to be total hateful fuckwits to religions we do not like and force them to violate their beliefs for our own petty amusement. I disagree and think the law protects their rights.

    Nowhere, nowhere have I said this. Or anything even remotely like it. Can you not find something I actually have said to disagree with?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

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