Humanist marriages go to court

In a guest post, Russell Sandberg looks at the forthcoming litigation over the non-recognition of “belief” wedding ceremonies.

It has been announced that on 6 -7 July the High Court will hear a challenge by six couples – supported by Humanists UK – against the current prohibition on humanist weddings: see the BBC and Guardian reports. 

Under the current law in England and Wales (but not in Scotland and Northern Ireland), couples can have a humanist wedding but it is not legally binding – meaning that they also need to undergo civil registration under the Marriage Act 1949. This places humanists in a different position from members of the Church of England and other religious groups who have places of worship registered for the solemnisation of marriage – and so can conduct lawful marriages there – and from Quakers and Jews.

It seems to be readily accepted that giving legal effect to humanist ceremonies is needed. At House of Lords questions on 30 June, the point of contention was when not whether such reform should take place. And section 14 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 already enables such a change to be made by secondary legislation. Continue reading