Jason has reminded me that I said I would publish a report on the Centre for Theology and Public Issues’s forum on marriage equality.  I thought that this topic was excitable and would attact a range of opinions in attendance and made sure I arrived early.  Surprisingly people were arrived in smaller numbers than I expected.  Critics of marriage equality were conspicuous by their absence.  Does this mean that they have abandoned the Centre of Theology and Public Issues as errant, liberal and leftie?

The marriage act in New Zealand law does not specifically say that marriage is between a man and a woman.  When this was challenged in court the courts of New Zealand agreed that the marriage act is based on common law, which does define marriage as between a man and a woman, and this is reflected in the rules of consanguinity cited in the marriage act which list the female relatives and in-laws a man may not marry, and for a woman the same relations of affinity among male relatives and in-laws that she may not marry.

I suspect that these laws of consanguinity were originally established by settler religious communities.  Anglicans were well presented on the forum panel.  I suspect that the Church of England and its relationship with government was a significant provider of these rules of consanguinity.  There was no representation of church history is speak for other churches.  The Presbyterian Church had its own rules of consanguinity.  Indeed differences of rules between northern and southern Presbyterians was a hurdle to creating a united national church for the Presbyterians in New Zealand until the beginning of the twentieth century.

The statistics in New Zealand reflect that about 20% of marriages take place in a registrar’s office, 30% by communities of faith, and 40% by marriage celebrants.  The practice among New Zealanders, at least outside communities of faith, is the marriage is a public act of commitment to an existing partnership done for the witness and celebration of family and friends.

The Holy Bible is conflicted about same-sex partnerships.  It condemns homosexual practice: male temple prostitution is not practiced among Christians.  At the same time the bible celebrates close same-sex relationships: David and Jonathon; Ruth and Naomi; Jesus and the beloved disciple.  That’s without recognising the text fragment, the Secret Gospel of Matthew as historical.

Maybe the marriage act needs to be taken from the hands of the Churches and other communities of faith.  What would happen if civil marriage and religious marriage were distinguished as separate ceremonies.  God and government make different demands on the marriage ceremony.

If the marriage act is changed to re-define who can marry under the act, then Jason left me with one final question from the evening forum: What is the rights and responsibilities of the state to its citizens?

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