NEW ZEALAND’S wedding ceremonies could be “the biggest, ugliest, and most difficult legal challenge to date”, the chief justice of the High Court has said.

Justice John McMahon told the New Zealand Law Reform Commission yesterday that the legalisation of same-gender marriages could put families “at greater risk of harm and distress”.

“In some of the cases where people have been brought together, the potential for harm is greater than the actual harm,” Justice McMahon said.

He said the laws that are currently in place did not adequately address the “significant risk of social and economic harms” that could result from the practice.

The commission is investigating whether same-gendered weddings are “in the best interests of the public”.

“We’re also interested in whether they’re in the best interest of the individuals who have already made their commitment to a person or to a partnership,” Justice Sinclair said.

“Is it the right decision for the individual and their family?”

“The answer is yes.”

Same-gender couples are eligible to enter a civil partnership, a state-funded arrangement, under the Marriage Act.

The commission will report its findings in the coming months.

New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of same sex marriage in the developed world.

A 2015 poll found more than 90 per cent of New Zealanders thought same- sex couples should be allowed to marry, although the majority of respondents did not support the idea.

Same-sex marriage is legal in the UK and in other European countries.

Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand and the US allow same- gender couples to marry.

Topics:marriage,family-and-children,law-crime-and_justice,courts-and%E2%80%93-50,courthouses-and-(municipal)-court,courtland-2340,canberra-2600,waMore stories from New Zealand

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