This month saw six couples bring a landmark legal action against the Government in an attempt to obtain legal recognition for humanist marriages in England and Wales.
Humanist weddings are non-religious ceremonies conducted by humanist officials. As Humanist ceremonies are currently not recognised by law in England and Wales, couples with Humanist beliefs must have a separate civil marriage – usually at a registrar’s office – for their wedding to be legally recognised.
In Northern Ireland, Humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2018, while in Scotland they have been legal since 2005 where they have had a transformative effect. Last year saw for the first time Humanist weddings outnumber Christian ceremonies.
Luke Pollard MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
“I get the frustration felt by the many couples who have Humanist wedding ceremonies each year, but which are not recognised as legal marriages. I believe in denying thousands of people the choice of a humanist wedding is unequal and unfair.
People should be able to celebrate their love and partnership without overly burdensome laws and recognise that we live in a country where there are different views towards religion, marriage and partnerships and our laws should reflect those. Allowing people to celebrate their love and commitment to each other should not be something Ministers stand in the way of.
Parliament voted to give the Government the power to provide legal recognition to Humanist marriages in 2013, but we have seen inaction by Tory Governments. This issue has widespread support, nearly seven out of ten adults in England and Wales support the legal recognition of Humanist weddings.
It is time for the Government to recognise the thousands of Humanists across the country who are only asking for a legally recognised wedding that is reflective of their beliefs and values.”
The legal challenge concluded on 8 July. At the end of the hearing, the judge reserved her decision until a future date. Mrs Justice Eady said that she doesn’t know when she will return a verdict but intends to give the matter her priority.