Northern Ireland: consultation on changes to marriage law

The Northern Ireland Department of Finance has launched a public consultation on changing two aspects of local marriage law.

The first issue is changing marriage laws to include belief marriage. The proposal is that belief weddings, such as those conducted by humanist celebrants – which are currently subject to temporary arrangements –should be put on an equal legal footing with religious weddings.

The second is the minimum age at which people can legally marry or enter a civil partnership.  Views are sought on raising the current minimum age from 16 with parental consent (as in England and Wales, though not as in Scotland) to 18. The Department notes that there has been a recent call from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the minimum age for marriage to be raised to 18 in those jurisdictions which currently allow child marriage. On 19 July 2019, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a Resolution on child, early and forced marriage expressing concern on prevailing impunity and lack of accountability.

The consultation will run until 18 February 2022.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Northern Ireland: consultation on changes to marriage law" in Law & Religion UK, 15 November 2021,

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