A group of NSW state MPs has proposed that civil celebrants be required to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies – when such unions are made legal.
In its submission to the Senate Select Committee examining the draft Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill, the NSW Parliamentary Working Group on Marriage Equality points out that by definition a civil celebrant performs marriages on behalf of the state, “thus providing a government service”.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the draft bill contains an exemption for civil celebrants.
It says that despite any law, civil celebrants may refuse to conduct same-sex ceremonies if their “conscientious or religious beliefs do not allow the marriage celebrant to solemnise the marriage”.
Should a blanket exemption be granted, the group proposes “opt-outs for currently registered marriage celebrants, while exclusively appointing as new marriage celebrants only those who will agree to marry same-sex couples”.
Brian Richardson, president of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, said his organisation had yet to come to a formal position on the issue but expected to do so early next month.
“Probably our position would be that all celebrants should be treated equally,” he said.
“If the legislation is to be enacted as drafted, we don’t see that there would be a huge issue with celebrants wanting to opt out.”