Coalition of Celebrant Associations

Australia’s Peak Celebrant Body

Recommendation 2: Exemptions, if parliament considers necessary, for current civil celebrants only

Term of Reference

(a) the nature and effect of proposed exemptions for ministers of religion, marriage celebrants and religious bodies and organisations, the extent to which those exemptions prevent encroachment upon religious freedoms, and the Commonwealth Government’s justification for the proposed exemptions

Recommendation 2:
CoCA proposes that if the parliament decides to provide exemptions for independent professional civil celebrants, such exemptions should only apply to:

a. current authorised civil celebrants, not new civil celebrants, and

b. require those who object on “religious or conscientious grounds” to apply to the Commonwealth Marriage Registrar for an exemption in accordance with the legislation for re-assignment as an independent religious celebrant.


  1.  A basic principle of civil law (whether created and administered by a federal, state or local government body), is that those required to implement the new legislation, whether government services/ independent professionals / business, are required to adhere to civil law from the time of its enactment, unless provisions are made to phase the changes in.

    Personnel working for government services, whether employed (full-time / part-time /casual) contracted or independent, are required to not let their personal religious or other belief systems interfere with their primary civil functions. School teachers, doctors, nurses, police personnel, etc. in government services are examples of this principle.

    For example, nurses or doctors in hospital Emergency Departments must by law treat a patient, irrespective of their own religious or conscientious beliefs.

  2. Only 3 % of independent civil celebrants, according to our 2015 survey3 would resign if the legal definition of marriage were changed.

    This would indicate that only a very small number of Commonwealth civil celebrants would apply for an exemption on “religious or conscientious” beliefs.

  3. CoCA proposes that those Subdivision C celebrants could apply to be independent religious celebrants or be required to apply for an exemption on “conscientious grounds” to the Commonwealth Marriage Registrar.

    Exempted celebrants would be noted on the Register of Marriage Celebrants published on the Attorney-General’s website to enable the marrying public to easily identify which celebrants were exempted from offering marriage services to same sex couples.  


3. CoCA sent a survey on Same-sex Marriage to 6654 authorised marriage celebrants on 4th August 2015. 1491 (22.4%) celebrants responded.

The purpose of the survey was to provide CoCA and the Attorney-General’s Department with information about independent civil celebrants views on Same Sex marriage, should this become legal. The results were:

·       80% indicated they would happily marry same sex couples

·       6.5 % indicated they would accept same sex clients if legally required to do so

·       10.5 % indicated they would consider discreetly refusing (i.e. be 'unavailable')

·       3 % indicated they would resign if the definition of marriage were to be changed.

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