Celebrant wants the right to refuse marrying same-sex couples

Lesley Ericson applied to be an independent marriage celebrant because she wanted to help couples with their special day. Just not same-sex couples.

"I said no, I wasn't [prepared to marry same sex couples], and I said, I hope that doesn't have any effect on my application. I immediately got an email saying your application has been declined."

She was shocked.

"I thought, you're kidding me, there was nothing along the way indicating that it was going to be an issue".

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages says she's not the only one.

"Twenty-two celebrants have been declined out of about 600 over the last year or so and Lesley was one of those because she was unwilling to provide services to same sex couple," Registrar-General Jeff Montgomery says.

The law allowing same-sex couples to marry came into force in August 2013, but lobbying resulted in an exemption for religious groups.

There are two types of celebrants: Organisational, those affiliated to a religious or other approved group, and independent. Of the 10,000 celebrants in New Zealand, 8000 of them are organisational and 2000 are independent.

Independent celebrants have to marry anyone legally entitled to be married in New Zealand.

"As they're providing a public service they can't discriminate based on gender, age, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation," Mr Montgomery says.

But Ms Ericson disagrees.

"I could say no to taking a ceremony on a plane or in a boat but apparently I can't say no to something I don't believe in," she says.

But celebrants belonging to religious groups can discriminate, and Mr Montgomery says under the Human Rights Act and under the Marriage Act, organisational celebrants are able to choose who they offer their services to.

Ms Ericson says she believes it's "against the Human Rights Act for me not to be allowed freedom of choice".

The Registrar says if Ms Ericson were to join or create an approved organisation, then she could choose who to marry.