Couples push for a change in marriage laws

Thousands of couples are this week waiting for news about whether “humanist weddings” are to be given legal status.

The Government recently held a public consultation over whether non-religious groups, most notably the British Humanist Association, should be given the ability to conduct a legally enforceable wedding.

Under present laws, only faith organisations and registrars have that privilege, meaning that couples who exchange vows in a humanist ceremony must also attend a register office for the marriage to be recognised by law.

Sam Whitney and Emma Horan, who are set to marry next summer, told the Guardian newspaper that they thought the current system was “completely unfair.”

“It’s integral for us that our family and friends recognise that we believe in humanism and want our marriage to be reflective of that,” said Emma.

“We’ve felt that our family and friends – almost certainly through a lack of awareness – won’t see this as our ‘real’ wedding because it’s not legal. Of course we hope that by the time we marry there will be a change in the law.”

In Scotland, the ceremonies received legal status in 2005 and last year the Humanist Society Scotland conducted more than 3000 marriages.

The public consultation which was conducted during the summer suggests three quarters of those who had their say were in favour of adopting a similar system south of the border.

But while the British Humanist Association has argued that “bigotry” is the only conceivable reason for not changing the law, there are rumours that No 10 is still set to block the idea for secular weddings, because it considers it a fringe issue.

The Government has promised to respond to the consultation before January 1st, with many expecting an announcement on how it plans to proceed before the end of this week.