Jersey is set to be the latest part of the British Isles to give legal recognition to humanist marriages, joining Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
Today Jersey’s Chief Minister has announced new legislation to give legal recognition to both same-sex and humanist marriages, that will be tabled before the States of Jersey Assembly on 14 November 2017.
The decision to include humanist marriage legislation follows on from a legislative proposal made by States of Jersey Deputy Louise Doublet and Humanists UK, who have been pressing for this change for the last three years.
Welcoming the news, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We’re delighted Jersey has chosen to extend legal recognition to humanist marriages. Humanist wedding ceremonies are personalised to non-religious couples’ deepest beliefs and values, and conducted by a celebrant who shares the couple’s beliefs in a venue of their choosing. They are increasingly popular. It’s great to see Jersey recognise this demand with legal recognition.’
Louise Doublet, Deputy of St Saviour No 2, who led the campaign for recognition, also welcomed the move: ‘By extending legal recognition to humanist marriages, non-religious people are being given the same choice of a personally meaningful ceremony that religious couples already have. Extending such recognition is a simple matter of fairness, and one that will strengthen the institution of marriage to the benefit of all of the people of Jersey. I look forward to working with my fellow States members to see this legislation approved.’
Recognition round the UK, Ireland, and crown dependencies
A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is deeply personal and conducted by a humanist celebrant. It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the humanist beliefs and values of the couple, conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values.
Legal recognition of humanist marriages has already had a transformative effect on Scottish and Irish society. In Scotland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to over 4,900 in 2016, overtaking the Church of Scotland in the process. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2016 around seven percent of legal marriages were humanist, more than four times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.
Guernsey is also currently considering legal recognition of humanist marriages, as part of a similar wider review of marriage law.
In Northern Ireland, Humanists UK and Northern Ireland Humanists are currently in court to secure recognition of humanist marriages, working with Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane. The challenge was successful at the High Court, but the Government has appealed the decision, which is currently stayed before the Court of Appeal.
In England and Wales, since 2013 the UK Government has had the power to extend legal recognition if it wishes, but hasn’t chosen to use this power yet. Jersey’s decision must surely increase the pressure for it to do so.
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0781 55 89 636, or States of Jersey Deputy Louise Doublet at email@example.com or 07797766784.
Read today’s announcement: http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/assemblypropositions/2017/p.91-2017.pdf
Read the latest on the Northern Ireland legal case: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/09/11/northern-ireland-court-of-appeal-stays-humanist-marriage-case-pending-further-negotiations/
Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns around marriage laws: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/marriage-laws/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.
Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/