Why can’t Bernard Darnton divorce the government? They’ve already taken half his property.
If you think you’re living in wedded bliss it may just be bliss. Finger-waggers from the Department of Internal Affairs have been wagging their fingers at marriage celebrants who just sign the legal documents but let someone else stand up the front, read out the vows, and make the cute jokes “to lighten-up proceedings” (because weddings are usually so miserable).
Finger-wagger-general of the DIA Brian Clarke has warned that his rubber stamping and box-ticking colleagues may refuse to rubber stamp or tick the boxes of some marriage ceremonies. In the same way that a humble DIA box-ticker would never dare assume the more important duties of a finger-wagger, a best mate with two night’s experience doing stand-up at Fat Eddie's should never be allowed to take on the solemn responsibilities of an officially recognised marriage celebrant.
Now, I can understand why people get married. After all, I’m married (and my wife is reading this over my shoulder so … best behaviour). What I can’t work out is why the government cares.
I can see that you might need some kind of official box-ticker recording this stuff if you’re a girl and you ever want to get a visa for Saudi Arabia. Or that you need some way of working out who’s allowed to tell the doctor to turn the ventilator off. But why you need a member of some exclusive guild to witness the deal is beyond me.
The truly perplexing part is that Births, Deaths and Marriages is banging on about people not being legally married when the previous government, via changes to the Property (Relationships) Act, automagically married anyone who was standing too close together – without anybody except the Governor-General signing anything.
The Press interviewed Christchurch marriage celebrant Julie Lassen for their exposé on this topic and she said, “It has been happening and it’s really very bad.” She didn’t explain why. Presumably it’s because of the risk of having a ceremony that doesn’t result in a marriage. Perhaps a worry born from experience because Lassen’s website boasts that “her weddings are renowned for going without a hitch.”
It looks as if the National Guild of New Zealand Celebrants is simply trying to drum up business for the National Guild of New Zealand Celebrants – what economists call “rent seeking” and the rest of us call “getting your face in the trough.” No doubt they have all sorts of imaginative reasons why your marriage might be unsafe or unhealthy unless it’s been solemnised by someone who filled in the right form and posted it to Internal Affairs. No doubt those reasons are all crap.
Unless you subscribe to some flavour of mystical nonsense – and celebrants only have to be endorsed by the DIA, not a deity – it doesn’t matter who officiates at a wedding. The promises you make in front of your friends and family are the same. Property law applies whether you’re married, civilly united, or just plain old shacked up. So why the silly laws and finger-wagging?
As usual, we’d be better off if the government had nothing to do with it. At the civil union demonstration in Wellington in 2004, while Bishop-to-be Brian Tamaki and his Density Church were seig-heiling their way up Lambton Quay and the land-rights-for-gay-whales brigade was waiting for them at Parliament there was one lonely soul in Parliament’s grounds carrying a placard that said “Repeal the Marriage Act.” He was the only person talking much sense that day.
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