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BHA: Parliament to vote on giving legal recognition to humanist marriage today

A proposal to give legal recognition to humanist marriages will be voted on today in the House of Commons. The proposal has been made as an amendment to the Marriage Bill by the Labour MPs Kate Green, Chris Bryant, and Kelvin Hopkins, the Liberal Democrat MPs Stephen Gilbert, Dr Julian Huppert, and Stephen Williams, and the Conservative Mike Weatherley MP. It is a revised version of a proposal made at an earlier stage of the Bill, which resulted in a tied vote at that point and fell only with the casting vote of the Commons Committee chair.

The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has been conducting humanist weddings for many years, has welcomed the amendment and the legal recognition it would bring for the many of couples who choose humanist weddings. In the last week 4000 people, including hundreds of couples who have had humanist weddings with no legal recognition, have been writing to their own MPs to urge them to support the amendment.

Many hundreds of couples have humanist weddings in England and Wales each year but unlike in Scotland – where almost 3000 a year are conducted – they are not recognised as legal marriages.

Isabel Russo, BHA Head of Ceremonies, commented, ‘Many thousands of couples who want their legal marriage to be a ceremony built on their love for each other and their deepest beliefs, conducted by a celebrant who shares those beliefs, are looking to Parliament to make this positive change. All the marriages I have conducted have been for couples whose commitment was made all the stronger by the fact that they could make it a ceremony that reflected their deepest values. I’m sure that this is something that all MPs will want to support.’

The proposal has been opposed by the Church of England and by some within government; others within government have expressed their support for it and their intention to vote in favour.

Opponents of the move have said that it would allow fringe religious groups to conduct legal marriages but in a letter to the BHA, the government made it clear that they recognized that the scope of the amendment covered humanists ‘only’. 

The BHA has produced a full briefing countering other arguments made against the proposal, available here

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA, commented ‘There is no way at all that this move should be in any way controversial. The amendment is supported by MPs from all three main parties, meets a genuine public desire, and has a negative effect on absolutely no one in society. It is more strictly and narrowly worded than even existing marriage law in order to introduce humanist marriage alone, and can have no unintended consequences. We are confident that it fully addresses all criticisms made of previous versions of the proposals and feel certain that all MPs of good conscience will support it in the free vote expected.'

NOTES

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

As well as hundreds of marriages, the BHA conducts many thousands of funerals every year.  All the ceremonies are conducted by trained and accredited celebrants subject to strict quality assurance processes and 97% of clients give these ceremonies feedback of 5/5.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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