In England and Wales, couples wanting a Humanist wedding currently have to arrange a separate wedding in a Register Office for their marriage to be legalised. For decades Humanists UK has campaigned for the law to be updated to reflect the ever growing demand for Humanist weddings to be legalised, as is the case in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland and Jersey.
Recently, six couples, fully supported by Humanists UK, brought a case to the High Court to launch a landmark legal challenge of the current marriage laws in England and Wales. Their case called for legal recognition of Humanist weddings. Their lawyers argued that the current laws requiring the additional bureaucratic step of having a separate ceremony to legalise a marriage are discriminatory and therefore incompatible with human rights legislation.
Judgement was given on 31 July 2020, and found that the current marriage laws in England and Wales do indeed give rise to discrimination by failing to give legal recognition to Humanist weddings. The judge accepted that a couple’s choice to have a Humanist celebrant is based on their beliefs, noting: “in particular in the way in which couples prepare for their wedding with their celebrant, in the statements made during the ceremony and in the emphasis on individual freedom of choice”.
While it is extremely positive that the High Court has ruled in the couples’ favour, the judge has agreed that the Government can await the outcome of an ongoing two year review of the marriage laws by the Law Commission, which began in the autumn of 2019, before having to update the marriage laws to deal with this discrimination.
For now, therefore, we need to wait for the conclusion of the review, but it WILL have to take into account this very recent High Court judgement and it’s findings deal with the current discriminatory marriage laws in England and Wales …