94% of those responding to a Guernsey States Assembly consultation on reforming marriage law have responded in support of legal recognition of humanist marriage, it has today been announced. The level of support was amongst the very highest of all the proposed changes, and has been welcomed by Channel Islands Humanists and Humanists UK, which responded in to the consultation in their favour.
A policy letter will now be prepared off the back of the proposals for deliberation by the States Assembly later in the year.
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, and conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values.
Welcoming the outcome, Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We’re delighted to see so many people in Guernsey support humanist marriages becoming legal. With the population of the Channel Islands becoming increasingly non-religious, more and more couples are demanding a personal, non-religious ceremony that is crafted just for them, and that’s what humanist marriages offer. We look forward to working with Guernsey officials and deputies to support these proposals become law.’
A growing trend around the UK, Ireland, and crown dependencies
Guernsey’s proposals follow on from a new law giving recognition to humanist marriages in Jersey coming into force on 1 July, with the first humanist celebrants expected to be approved by the state in the next few months. And in Northern Ireland, following a court ruling, legal humanist marriages started there at the end of August.
Humanist marriages have much longer been legally recognised in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, and it has already had a transformative effect in both countries. In Scotland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to almost 7,000 in 2017 – some 20% of the total, meaning Humanist Society Scotland now provides more marriage ceremonies than any other religion or belief group. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2017 around eight percent of legal marriages were humanist, placing the Humanist Association of Ireland only behind the Catholic Church and civil marriages.
In England and Wales, over 1,000 couples a year already have non-legal humanist wedding ceremonies, but such ceremonies cannot at present carry legal recognition, without the couple also going through the time and expense of having a civil marriage as well. Humanists UK believes this is unfair, and since religious marriages do carry such recognition, discriminatory. But the recognition in Northern Ireland, in Jersey, and the ongoing proposals in Guernsey, surely means that the prospects of legal recognition in England and Wales, too, have now become much more likely. 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. Now Humanists UK is asking the Government to urgently 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.
Read the Guernsey Policy & Resources Committee announcement: https://gov.gg/article/167151/Public-views-on-proposals-to-change-Marriage-Law-published
Read the consultation report: https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=115220&p=0
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.
Channel Islands Humanists is a part of Humanists UK.