Northern Ireland woman seeks humanist marriage

family law

A Belfast woman and her footballer fiancé are in the midst of a legal bid to have humanist marriages recognised in Northern Ireland.

Laura Lacole and Leeds United midfielder player Eunan O’Kane want to have their wedding next month officiated by a celebrant from the British Humanist Association (BHA). However, the General Register Office has refused to recognise the ceremony. This is the government agency which records births, deaths, marriages, civil partnerships and adoptions in the region.

Currently, if couples in Northern Ireland want to have a humanist wedding, they must also have a separate civil registration or the marriage will not be legally recognised. Lacole wanted to challenge this aspect of the law so she applied for permission to do so.

This week, a High Court Judge in Belfast granted the couple permission to seek a judicial review, saying it was “an arguable case and an important matter of public interest [which] has been raised”.

Lacole, who is vice-chair of campaign group Atheist NI, called marriage “a celebration of who that couple are, reflecting their deepest held beliefs and values”. She wanted hers “to reflect my deepest humanist values, much as a Christian might see their marriage as of special significance for them”. The couple were “only asking for the same rights as religious people already have” she added.

The BHA welcomed the decision and pledged their support for Lacole and O’Kane. Chief Executive Andrew Copson insisted that “UK laws should treat everyone equally, regardless of religion or belief” so, given that religious marriages are legally recognised, “it is past time that the same recognition is extended to humanist ones”.

Humanist marriages are already legal in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. The first one in Scotland took place almost 12 years ago at Edinburgh Zoo.

Photo by slgckgc via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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1 comment

Andrew - May 10, 2017 at 8:18pm

We should do it à la française, and that’s not something I often say.
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All marriages should be before the Registrar, and then you can have any sort of ceremony you like but it won’t have legal effect. Notice to the Registrar, marriage before the Registrar, and a certificate from the Registrar in the usual form – anything else anywhere in the UK being a non-marriage. Problem solved.

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