Challenge to unfair marriage law

Humanists are hopeful for a breakthrough in the long quest for legal recognition of Humanist weddings in England & Wales. Ilford Recorder ‘Faith Column’ piece 6.8.20.

Humanist couples have long been denied a basic human right afforded to religious couples – the right to seal their marriage vows according to their own beliefs and values. Humanist weddings are still not legally recognized in England and Wales. Six Humanist couples are challenging this unfairness in the High Court. The case is supported by Humanists UK.

Scotland has recognised Humanist weddings since 2005, Northern Ireland since 2018. They have proved immensely popular and in Scotland now outnumber the ceremonies of all Christian denominations combined. In 2013 Parliament gave our Government the power to give legal recognition to Humanist marriages in England and Wales. But the Government has failed to act. This is despite the proposal enjoying cross-party, and overwhelming public, support.

An offer on behalf of the couples to negotiate a settlement was refused. This is disappointing given the cost of contesting the case to tax payers, not to mention the backlog in civil ceremonies due to Covid which the reform will address. Legal action was the last resort. The Court heard the arguments in July. Judgement is awaited.

A Humanist wedding is very special. Couples without religious belief are able to choose the meanings and values important to them. They are not shoe-horned into someone else’s template. The Government has shown double standards by denying this powerful expression of personal belief. Humanists UK are hopeful this landmark case will at long last put Humanist weddings in England on an equal legal footing with religious weddings.  

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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