On Wednesday Louisa Wall’s bill for Marriage Equality passed its third reading 77 votes to 44. New Zealand is now the thirteenth country to allow this.

One priest friend posted:

I so enjoyed Maurice Williamson’s speech in Parliament last night and am glad the same sex marriage bill has passed its third reading. Perhaps the liturgical commission can bring out its trial liturgy to bless same sex relationships at last…

That enthusiastic sentiment was welcomed and commented on by a number of people. But it is worth a slightly deeper look.

1) It is not a same sex marriage bill. That can give the impression that “same sex marriage” is something different to “opposite sex marriage”. The whole point of the bill is to provide the same rites and the same rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as for heterosexual people. But wait there is more:

1a) There is a footnote to 1). I saw quite a bit of scaremongering in these months – that those who maintain that marriage is only for one man and one woman would end up being required to officiate at the marriage of a same sex couple, and that those who proclaimed this belief would be prosecuted under Section 56 of the Marriage Act 1955. This has that it is an “Offence to deny or impugn validity of lawful marriage“. At the first reading it was not thought necessary to alter this,

Some people have suggested that the Church cannot share its view about marriage because of section 56 of the Marriage Act. Section 56 says that a person cannot state that another person’s marriage is not legal. That does not concern the general view of marriage but is directed to an individual, and the reality is that once sanctioned by law, the marriage is legal, and no Church person should be stating otherwise.

In the end, parliament bent over backwards to add reassurance upon reassurance for these people, and so also repealed Section 56.

So, if you want to continue to teach that marriage is only between one man and one woman, you can do so without being directly affected by this bill.

2) “Perhaps the liturgical commission can bring out its trial liturgy to bless same sex relationships at last”. Well, actually the Liturgical Commission brought out the rite for The Blessing of a Relationship as long ago as 1992. Our General Synod passed the legislation that allowed that rite in 2002.

2a) Civil Unions have been legal in NZ since 2005. Talk of a rite of blessing such a relationship may have been appropriate for that. But Wednesday’s passing of this bill was not about some rite of blessing for committed-same-sex couples that differs from what is offered to a heterosexual couple. The bill is about the same rights and same rites for all. It is about extending the marriage rite to the LGBT community. That only takes about half an hour with a word processor and the currently authorised rites of marriage.

3) This easy-to-produce inclusive marriage rite in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (IMO) needs to go through General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW), then passed by a majority of diocesan synods and hui amorangi, back to GSTHW for a second vote there, and then wait a year for any legal objections before it can be used.

3a) I was once rung by a bishop who was overjoyed to have spotted what this bishop thought was an error on this site. I had not yet recognised a liturgical change that had gone through GSTHW twice. I reminded the good bishop that the year for legal objection was not yet over. The bishop laughed and said, “Oh, no one takes any notice of that! Some people even start to put the change into effect after it has been to GSTHW the first time.”

You read it here first: bishops and many others will not be so jolly or easygoing when it comes to how we include LGBTs in the church. That year allowing for legal objection will be observed to the final day.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have a special status in our church. People can deny many a clearly-defined belief, or break any number of church teachings or regulations, but bless a gay couple, or ordain a person in a committed same-sex relationship, and all hell can break loose.

4) Oh, yes. You wanted to watch Maurice Williamson’s speech my priest friend mentioned.

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