Humanist marriages: the Government’s latest position

In a Written Question answered on 5 September, Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con) asked the Secretary of State for Justice, “if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of immediately laying an order under Section 14 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 to give legal recognition to humanist marriages rather than waiting for the outcome of the Law Commission’s review into that matter” [284951]. The Act (notwithstanding its Short Title) includes provision “for permitting marriages according to the usages of belief organisations to be solemnized on the authority of certificates of a superintendent registrar.”

In reply, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the MoJ, Wendy Morton, said this:

“The Law Commission review that the Government announced this June is a fundamental review of the law on how and where people can legally marry in England and Wales. As part of that review, the Government invited the Law Commission to make recommendations about how marriage by humanist and other non-religious belief organisations could be incorporated into a revised or new scheme for all marriages that is simple, fair and consistent. The Government will decide on provision on the basis of the Law Commission’s recommendations.

Assessment of the potential merits of provision for non-religious belief marriages can be found in the consultation paper and response published by a previous Government in 2014 and available at justice.gov.uk.

Exercising the power in section 14 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 to provide for legally binding non-religious belief marriage, including humanist marriage, would provide a freedom to marry in a way that would not be available to many other people who wish to marry. That is why the Government asked the Law Commission to carry out a fundamental review of the law on how and where couples can marry. It is a law that has been added to over several centuries without any systematic reform.”

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