Humanists in Republic set to conduct civil marriages
The HAI is set to gain the right to conduct civil marriages
The Irish Government on 1st May approved legislation allowing members of non-religious groups, such as the Humanist Association of Ireland, to perform civil marriages.
According to the Irish Times, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said: “I am delighted to have obtained the support of my colleagues in Cabinet for the proposal”.
Originally brought in as a Private Members’ Bill by Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill completed its progress in the Seanad on 2nd May and Ms Burton will sponsor its progress through the Dáil. It proposes to give the right to conduct civil marriages to non-religious groups, which must be a “philosophical and non-confessional body”.
In the UK at present, a couple who want a Humanist wedding must arrange two separate ceremonies, one at a registry office and the other at the venue which they have chosen. By contrast, most Christian weddings do not require a separate ceremony because the marriage is legally registered at the church or chapel where the ceremony is held.
These arrangements are discriminatory in that, by not recognising a Humanist wedding as legal, they effectively treat non-religious people as second-class citizens. Humanists are therefore only seeking parity of esteem, in which the same legal right should apply to both religious and non-religious ceremonies.
There is a proper system of accreditation in operation for Humanist celebrants. They complete a training programme which is organised by one of the national Humanist organisations, either the British Humanist Association or the Humanist Society of Scotland. All of the Humanist celebrants in Northern Ireland have completed such an accreditation process. Therefore, they are perfectly capable of performing the role of officiant. It is unfounded and unjust to assume that Christian celebrants are more competent than Humanist celebrants, as the procedures of the General Registry Office in NI effectively do.
The Scottish Parliament has already put into effect the necessary legislation for their jurisdiction. In Scotland, the registration of a marriage can take place during a Humanist ceremony, just as it can during a Christian ceremony. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are therefore lagging behind Scotland and the Republic of Ireland in discriminating against the non-religious in respect of marriage ceremonies. The Northern Ireland Assembly should follow the Scottish precedent as soon as possible.
See also letter in the Belfast Telegraph (8th May) at:
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