Government blocks humanist weddings, after review finds ‘majority’ in favour

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The government will not move to introduce humanist marriages – despite a review finding that a majority of the public were in favour.

The review, which took place earlier this year, was promised as part of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, amid calls to allow organisations such as humanists to perform official marriage ceremonies in England and Wales.

Its findings were published this week, and show that a majority of people think that the ban on humanist weddings in England and Wales is discriminatory. Humanist weddings are already legal in Scotland.

However, instead of moving to change the law the Government has ordered a further review, meaning non-religious humanist weddings are unlikely to move forward in Parliament before the next election.

It was reported last week that the Conservatives had blocked the idea, because it is seen as a “fringe” issue despite Lib Dem backing.

The Government response says in part: “The Government recognises that the majority of respondents to the consultation are in favour of changing the law to permit legally valid marriage ceremonies for those with non-religious beliefs, and of allowing these marriages to take place in unrestricted locations, including outdoors.

“Having carefully considered the full range of responses and issues raised through the consultation, and the complex issues associated with any option for change, we have come to the conclusion that to make such changes would not be straightforward and would have implications for marriage solemnization more broadly.

“It is the Government’s view therefore that in order to make a decision on whether to take forward the specific proposal to permit legally valid marriage ceremonies for those with non-religious beliefs, it is necessary to carefully consider the legal and technical requirements concerning marriage ceremonies and registration and the range of relevant equality issues.

“To this end the Government will ask the Law Commission if it will begin as soon as possible a broader review of the law concerning marriage ceremonies.

“The Government would also want to ensure that any review took full account of and did not undermine the provisions within the 2013 Act which protect religious organisations which do not want to marry same sex couples at the same time as allowing those who do to opt in to conducting such marriages.

“Marriage is one of our most valued and important institutions which also affects people’s legal rights and status. It is important that we take the time and approach to get this right.