Humanist weddings amendment withdrawn from equal marriage bill

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An amendment for humanist weddings has been withdrawn from the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill after Baroness Stowell gave reassurances to supporters that the government would look again at the matter.

At the moment, anyone taking part in a humanist ceremony must still have their marriage made legal through a register office.

However, humanist ceremonies have been a fully legal form of marriage in Scotland since 2005. It is one of only six nations in the world to allow them.

An amendment for humanist weddings was withdrawn hastily in the Commons last month as part of the bill’s third reading by MPs.

It was after Attorney General Dominic Grieve warned that the amendment would fall foul of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as any “belief organisation” would be able to claim they were being discriminated against if they weren’t able to perform marriages.

This evening, Lords whip Baroness Stowell, reiterated the government’s caution to the idea, but promised to consult with ministers to see if a way through could be reached.

Last month, Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: “The amendment does not open up legal recognition for any new weddings other than humanist ones.

“Humanist weddings are popular and meaningful and legal recognition for them would be fair, timely, and not at all controversial.”

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert was a supporter of the Commons amendment.

Writing for, the MP said: “The prime minister may have to accept that there are likely to be majorities in the House of Commons for opposite sex civil partnerships, humanist weddings as well as equal marriage for gay and lesbian people. He should welcome these changes.”

But Conservative MP Sir Tony Baldry said the humanist weddings plan was “not a particularly sensible amendment, whichever side of the argument you’re on”.