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APPHG launches report on legal recognition of humanist marriage at event in Parliament

From left to right: Baroness Bakewell, Markus Markoulias, Suzie Cox, Richy Thompson, Zena Birch, Crispin Blunt MP.

The All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) held an event in Parliament today to launch its new report on the legal recognition of humanist marriage in England and Wales. The event brought to an end the APPHG’s three-month inquiry into humanist marriage and hosted a discussion of the report’s key findings and recommendations.

The report, entitled Any lawful impediment?, examines the two previous reviews into the matter, conducted by the Ministry of Justice and the Law Commission, to consider any concerns they had about extending recognition. It concludes:

‘Marriage law is extremely complex and may call for wider reform, but we don’t think any need for wider reform remotely justifies continuing delay in granting recognition to humanist marriages.’

The launch event was chaired by APPHG co-chair Baroness Joan Bakewell, while Crispin Blunt MP presented the findings of the report. Those in attendance also heard from a panel of experts and those with direct experience of humanist ceremonies. Suzie Cox and Markus Markoulias, a couple who are having a humanist wedding ceremony this year, spoke of the difficulties they have faced in trying to coordinate their humanist ceremony and the civil ceremony that is required to make their marriage legally recognised. Picking up on findings in the report that suggest some registrars can be less than cooperative with humanist couples, Suzie and Markus revealed that with just 50 days to go until their wedding, they are still unsure about how and whether they would be able to have both ceremonies on the same day.

Humanist celebrant Zena Birch spoke from her experience delivering more than 200 ceremonies, explaining that ‘couples are choosing humanist wedding ceremonies in spite of how difficult it can be because, for them, what they’re doing and saying is so important’. She explained the significance of such ceremonies to them and how personal they can be to the lives of the couples involved. Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson added that in many ways ‘weddings take on extra significance for humanists, who have fewer opportunities to publicly express or solemnise their beliefs than religious people.’

Crossbench peer Baroness Meacher, who sponsored the amendment to the Same-Sex Marriage Act 2013 that gave the Government power to legally recognise humanist marriage, said that she was committed to seeing it through. She welcomed the ‘valuable evidence and anecdotes provided at the meeting’.

Closing the meeting, Baroness Bakewell said the case for change was ‘irrefutable’, particularly given the human rights issues that prior to this report had not been properly considered. The APPHG, together with Humanists UK, will now turn to bringing the findings and recommendations of the report to the Government’s attention.

Notes

For further contact or information, please contact Humanist UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3072.

Read the report, ‘Any Lawful Impediment?’ A report of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group’s inquiry into the legal recognition of humanist marriage in England and Wales: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/APPHG-report-on-humanist-marriage.pdf

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.

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