(1)Every person commits an offence against this Act, and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $200, who—
(a)alleges, expressly or by implication, that any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married; or
(b)alleges, expressly or by implication, that the issue of any lawful marriage is illegitimate or born out of true wedlock.
(2)For the purposes of this section the term alleges means making any verbal statement, or publishing or issuing any printed or written statement, or in any manner authorising the making of any verbal statement, or in any manner authorising or being party to the publication or issue of any printed or written statement.
(3)A person shall not be deemed to make an allegation contrary to the provisions of this section by reason only of using in the solemnisation of a marriage a form of marriage service which at the commencement of this Act was in use by the religious body to which that person belongs, or by reason only of the printing or issue of any book containing a copy of a form of marriage service in use at the commencement of this Act by any religious body."
The proposed changes by Louisa Wall to the Marriage Act (here) do not affect a section such as this. It will remain as it is.
My correspondent goes on to make these observations,
"I take it that this section arose from the
concern of Protestants that Roman Catholics would not recognize their
marriages. But in the current climate, it could take on a new significance in
silencing those who disagree with the proposed changes to the marriage act,
with implications for the church if it discriminates as to who can use a church
for a marriage ceremony. One way around this would be for the churches to no
longer act as state celebrants for marriages and only provide a liturgical
ceremony (as is the case in a number of other countries)."
As I take soundings around the church I sense that there is a vocal group supporting a change to our theological definition of marriage which would line up with Louisa Wall's bill, a vocal group supporting the status quo (at least re 'man and woman' at core of definition of marriage) which does not line up with her bill, and a silent group (a silent majority?) which is comfortable with the current civil status quo (which provides for civil unions for same sex couples), perhaps sees no harm in the Wall bill, but disagrees with the idea that the church's sacraments (or, as I prefer, sacramental actions, cf the catechism of our church) can involve two men or two women being joined in 'holy matrimony.'
Were the Wall bill to pass, some great care would be needed in talking about 'marriages' of gay couples. Many Christians who do not agree with the use of the term 'marriage' to encompass a relationship not involving a man and a woman could be at risk of offending against the law.
Even yours truly here, who tries to place the word marriage in scare marks when talking about a concept he does not agree with, could be fined $100 per scare mark when doing so!
Will the newly amended Marriage Act introduce a new discrimination to NZ society: Christians (and Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, social traditionalists) who wish to discuss in some public manner whether two men or two women can be married in the eyes of God will henceforth be discriminated against?
That's a genuine question as I am not clear whether the above section is about statements concerning specific persons or couples rather than general statements about situations pertaining to marriage. I have no wish to run round publicly saying that X and Y are not married. I do have a wish to be able to discuss matters of theological concern in public without impedance from an officious State.