ShiftyJK08 saidI can't speak for others but in our church the role of the clergy officiant goes beyond that which a judge or other civil witness would perform. Couples (be they same or hetero-gender) meet with the clergy person for multiple counseling sessions first, to ensure that they understand what they're getting into and to help them make sure they are compatible (similar goals and expectations, etc.). That is a large part of the reason a member of clergy would be likely to say he or she is not comfortable witnessing the marriage... it would be less about "whether God wants them to" than "are they ready?".
In NJ where I live, I do not believe a civil official has the right to refuse to witness a marriage based on his or her religious convictions; I think that is reserved for clergy.
My only complaint is what's been made by law mandatory which seems to me a bit degrading, maybe even offensive, that a third public party be required to supposedly bring dignity to the intimate relationship of two sovereign private persons.
I certainly have zero issues with either a couple's decision to celebrate in ceremony or, and maybe even especially, a person accepting counsel of a qualified professional before they risk inflicting their own misguided personal issues on a previously possible but no longer viable prospective partnership.
I only ever took crap from one person born into my life and I always said I'd never take that crap from anyone else and I don't and I won't, not even ever again from that bitch. Fix yourself or be gone from my life. I don't need that shit and I do not accept it.
So if a person has the wherewithal within them to seek outside counsel, even in a religious context which I'm not into personally but I am very for to each their own, I admire that. That I would not dismiss. If you are submitting yourself to such structure that you'd accept someone's decision that you are incompatible with another being such that they'd refuse you marriage, again, not my thing, and I might think that a little odd, but I certainly would not judge for that person but rather would champion that person's decision to live that life as much as I might point out aspects of it that I might not agree with for my own life.
So for me it isn't the counsel that a church might provide, it isn't the license that a state might issue, but the control freakiness that a person or organization might attempt or succeed in exerting over free people.
Even in an example of the trending demise of common law marriage, un-requiring of a third party's approval, for anyone who has the brains or heart to bother, even if they don't have the intuition to suspect by correct perception and not in paranoia, we find a history of control issues there, about which is my very complaint (that someone--in some other post or thread or life--might seek to improperly subvert by disgustingly mischaracterizing or misdirecting something I've said).
...During the middle of the Nineteenth Century, most states permitted common-law marriage. By 1931, however, only half the states still allowed common-law marriage. Today, that number is down to nine (plus the District of Columbia)...
...Because so many things turned on marital status – inheritance rights, Social Security benefits, veterans' benefits, pension rights, and so on – the legal recognition of a kind of marriage that required no paper record became a nuisance. States also tried to assert control during the early part of the Twentieth Century over reproduction, which in turn led to tighter controls on marriage...
...states gradually joined the movement to abolish common-law marriage entirely. A few states had abolished it by 1900, but the abolitions spanned more than a century, with the last state, Pennsylvania, not joining the crowd until 2005...