The BHA has briefed members of the House of Lords ahead of tomorrow’s debate in the chamber called by the Lord Bishop of Chester, concerning the role of marriage and marriage law in the UK.
The brief mentions key issues that the BHA is committed to supporting such as having legally recognised humanist marriage, same sex marriage, and it details the BHA’s concerns regarding potential ‘religious’ civil partnerships.
Unlike in Scotland, humanist marriages in England and Wales are not legally recognised, meaning that people wanting a humanist ceremony must get their marriage legalised with an additional civil marriage. Religious people however, can have a legally recognised marriage according to their particular religious beliefs. It is deeply unequal that non-religious people cannot also have their marriages legally recognised in a ceremony which demonstrates their beliefs.
Our brief also raises the continuing inequality in marriage law between gay and straight couples. Although civil-partnerships were a positive step, they are still not equal to marriage. There is absolutely no legitimate reason why same sex couples should not be given the same rights as heterosexual couples.
In terms of current discussions which propose allowing religious elements into civil partnerships, the BHA is a strong supporter of the principle that civil marriages be conducted completely without reference to any particular religion or belief (including Humanism) because it is necessary for civil law to remain secular. We are therefore very concerned that the same principle be maintained in respect of civil partnerships.