Most religious organisations in New Zealand have declared that they will not perform same-sex marriages even if the bill currently before the parliament for marriage equality passes.
Unsurprisingly the Catholic Church instigated the aggressive stand against gay people and together with Anglican, Baptist, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and orthodox Jewish religious groups and churches have all indicated their opposition to equality.
Anwar Ghani, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, told local New Zealand media that same-sex marriage was unacceptable under Muslim law. ‘Our position is very clear – Islam does not allow marriages of same sex. Islam views marriage not just for recreation, but for procreation,’ he told New Zealand media, Stuff.
Lali Singh the general secretary of New Zealand’s Sikh Society said the Sikh religion would not condone same-sex marriages ‘We will not allow any gay marriages in the temples, it’s against religious rules – it should be just between a man and a woman.’
However some other churches are perhaps a little more liberal and inclusive, Presbyterian minister Margaret Mayman, of St Andrew’s on the Terrace in Wellington is one of the few Christian ministers to support the bill – believed a law change would 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.”
One of the champions of the marriage equality bill, Labour MP Louisa Wall, said the tepid religious support for the bill was no surprise. “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.”
Of course, the bible is seen as a living document packed with various rules and suggestions of how to live ones life, the majority of faithful people, pick and choose what parts of it to believe in and act upon. For example you don’t often hear of religious people selling their first born daughter into slavery, which according to a book in the bible they are perfectly entitled to do. Or is a man cheats on his wife with another woman, they both have to be put to death according to the laws of this precious book. Nor do they kill anyone of a different religion, which goes against the teachings of Deuteronomy.
Chris Marshall a professor in religious studies at Victoria University understands the churches reluctance in acceptance, “In many cases what you will probably find is there’s a very long and rich theological reflection on the meaning of marriage and the family that simply can’t be changed overnight. It takes time. I can see why religious groups have been put on the back foot.”