47 would-be marriage celebrants rejected because they refuse to carry out gay weddings

Gay wedding
No organisational marriage celebrants - which are usually nominated by churches - have had their applications rejected. Photo credit: Getty

There have been no complaints about marriage celebrants refusing to perform gay weddings, it has been revealed.

But it appears that's because the Department of Internal Affairs has refused to approve applications from would-be independent celebrants that refuse to carry them out.

Forty-seven applicants have been rejected since September 2015, according to documents released under the Official Information Act to conservative lobby group Family First.

Under the law, organisational marriage celebrants aren't required to carry out gay weddings if it contravenes their religious beliefs. Independent marriage celebrants however "must make themselves available to all persons legally able to marry in New Zealand and cannot refuse to solemnise any marriage due to reasons it would contravene the Human Rights Act 1993".

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the documents contradict claims made by Labour MP Louisa Wall, who introduced the same-sex legislation through Parliament, that celebrants wouldn't be made to carry out same-sex weddings if they didn't want to.

"When the Bill was rushed through to its final reading, it still did not protect the consciences of independent marriage celebrants who are not lawfully able to refuse a request to marry a same-sex couple by reason of the same-sex of the couple.

"This law currently provides a culture of coercion. Politicians who support the right of freedom of belief and conviction should fix the anomaly."

The Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages Jeff Montgomery told Fairfax independent celebrants are "providing a public service, and they are acting on behalf of the Government and are required to comply with the Marriages Act and other relevant legislation", including the Human Rights Act.

"If they are not willing to comply with the Human Right Act, ie they will choose to discriminate against certain members of the public, then I can't appoint them."

No organisational marriage celebrants - which are usually nominated by churches - have had their applications rejected in the past two years, he said, adding that they are not required to carry out gay marriages if they don't want to.