Temporary marriage reform excludes humanist marriages

From July legal recognition will be extended to outdoor civil marriages in England and Wales. The UK Government has announced that it will change the law to allow this until at least April 2022. But it has made no announcement about legal recognition of humanist marriages. Humanists UK has called for their legal recognition to now also happen, on the same interim basis. It is writing to the Government to request such a change.

In recent years the Government has resisted legal recognition of humanist marriages on the basis that piecemeal reform of marriage law should not occur. It has argued that marriage law reform should wait for the outcome of an ongoing Law Commission review. Humanists UK believes today’s move undermines that argument.

The move by the Government will only affect venues that are already approved to hold civil weddings and partnership registrations indoors. They will now also be able to hold marriages on outdoor parts of their premises.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented:

‘For years now the Government has been resisting legal recognition of humanist marriages on the basis that piecemeal reform of marriage law is undesirable. It has particularly pointed to the need to deal with inconsistent rules around which types of marriage can take place outdoors. It has argued that allowing humanist marriages to take place outdoors when some other types cannot would be unfair. It has even made this argument in court.

‘For it to now allow civil marriages outdoors while not also legally recognising humanist marriages is therefore unfair, even by its own logic. It must now extend legal recognition to humanist marriages, at least on the same basis as it is for outdoor civil marriages.’

Since 2013, the Government has had the power to extend legal recognition to humanist marriages by Order. A new Act of Parliament is not required. Humanists UK believes the Government should use this power at the same time as it extends legal recognition to outdoor civil marriages.