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Humanists celebrate first legal humanist marriage in Jersey

Humanists have celebrated Jersey’s first legal humanist marriage which took place on the island today, just over a year after Jersey passed a law to give legal recognition of humanist marriages.

The first legal marriage on the island follows on from a four-year campaign by Humanists UK and its member, States of Jersey Deputy Louise Doublet, to bring about legal recognition of humanist marriages and same-sex marriages.

Jersey humanist wedding celebrant, Gill Hayes, who conducted the ceremony for the local couple, said the couple did not want to be named but had chosen a humanist ceremony specifically because of its personal and bespoke nature.

‘The couple are extremely private and wanted their wedding to reflect that. They love the deeply personal element that a humanist wedding brings which is why they were so pleased to be able to take advantage of the recent change in legislation. And of course, while they didn’t want to publicise their wedding, they are nonetheless delighted to be part of this defining occasion for Jersey,’ Humanist wedding celebrant Gill Hayes said.

Channel Islands Humanists and Humanists UK today celebrated the news and says it is looking forward to marrying many more happy couples in the months and years to come.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘We are delighted to mark this historic occasion of the first legal humanist marriage to take place in Jersey after years of our campaigning to change the law.

‘We respect the couple’s wishes to keep their wedding day very private which speaks to the deeply personal nature of humanist ceremonies and the focus on the couple’s love and their story. We wish them great happiness together.

‘Jersey is now one of the jurisdictions leading the way in offering meaningful choice to couples who want a unique humanist ceremony and we expect there to be a surge in more people on the island who want a humanist wedding.’

Humanist marriages have legal recognition in Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, and Northern Ireland but not yet in England and Wales. Humanists UK is urgently working to bring about legal recognition of humanist marriages in England, Wales and Guernsey.

Statistics released by Humanists UK earlier this year found that humanist marriages were the least likely to end in divorce.  

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

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.

About humanist weddings

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.

Humanist marriages have long been legally recognised in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, and have had a transformative effect in both countries. They gained legal recognition in Scotland in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to almost 7,000 in 2017 – some 20% of the total. Humanist Society Scotland provides more marriage ceremonies than the Church of Scotland or 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.

More recently humanist marriages became legal in Northern Ireland in August, following a Court of Appeal ruling that concluded that a failure to do so would be a breach of human rights. Jersey also gave legal recognition to humanist marriages in July, with the first ones expected to be performed in due course, and Guernsey is currently considering doing the same thing.

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 Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Jersey, and the ongoing proposals in Guernsey, surely means that the prospects of legal recognition in England and Wales, too, should become much more likely. Since 2013 humanist marriages have been on the statute books in England and Wales, but the UK Government hasn’t chosen to enact the relevant statute.

Last year the Government announced a review of the law around marriage venues in England and Wales. It is presently unclear whether this review will include humanist marriages, but Humanists UK sees no good reason as to why humanist marriages need another review. Instead Humanists UK is asking the Government to urgently bring about legal recognition.

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