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Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland

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Alan H
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Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 10:26 pm

Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland

#1 Postby Alan H » June 9th, 2017, 10:49 am

Success! Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland
June 9th, 2017

Humanists Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane have won their challenge to gain legal recognition for their humanist wedding, due to take place in Northern Ireland later this month. The decision was issued today by the High Court, just two weeks after the hearing in the case, as the judge was keen to ensure that Laura and Eunan have time to plan accordingly for their wedding. The impact is that humanist marriages immediately gain legal recognition across Northern Ireland.

Humanists UK and its section Northern Ireland Humanists, who supported model/public speaker Laura and Leeds United/Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan in bringing the case, have expressed their delight at the news. Since Scotland and the Republic have also previously granted such recognition, England and Wales are now left lagging behind as the only part of the UK and Ireland yet to make the change – something that must surely now be much more likely to follow.

Welcoming the outcome, Laura commented, ‘We’re delighted to have won our case today. It means that in two weeks’ time we can legally marry in a way that reflects our beliefs. Our humanist ceremony will speak to our values and the love Eunan and I have for each other in a way no other marriage ceremony could. We’re thrilled that our action has extended the same choice to thousands of other couples.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson added, ‘This case is a great result for fairness and equality in Northern Ireland, meaning that humanists can now have humanist wedding ceremonies that match their personal beliefs, are conducted by a celebrant who shares their values, and – for the first time – have legal recognition.

‘We look forward to working with the Northern Irish authorities to see this recognition put into practice. And we urge all Westminster parties to take heed, as England and Wales are now left as the only part of the UK or Ireland where such recognition is still lacking. All it needs is that the Justice Secretary lays an order in Parliament.’

About the case and its likely impact

The case was taken on human rights grounds, targeting the discriminatory law that has meant that religious people are able to have legal marriage ceremonies in line with their beliefs, but humanists have, until now, not been able to do likewise. The judge has now ordered existing law to be reinterpreted so as to be read as giving Humanists UK celebrants the power to marry people, immediately granting Laura and Eunan and other humanist couples what they sought. Whether or not there is an appeal remains to be seen.

Legal recognition has already had a transformative effect on Scottish and Irish society. In Scotland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to over 4,300 in 2015, overtaking the Church of Scotland in the process. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2015 around six percent of legal marriages were humanist, more than three times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.

In England and Wales, marriage law is different from in Northern Ireland and Scotland. But as the case was taken on human rights grounds, the underlying principles are very similar, and so the prospects of legal recognition have now become much more likely. Since 2013 the UK Government has had the power to extend legal recognition if it wishes, but hasn’t chosen to use this power yet. Now Humanists UK will be asking all parties again to commit to doing so.
Alan Henness

What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU? Anyone? Hello? Hello?

"We're all in this together, but some are more in it than others."
— Me, with apologies to Napoleon

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coffee
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Re: Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland

#2 Postby coffee » June 9th, 2017, 3:06 pm

Very well done, congratulation to the couple :happyclappy: :clap: :dance: :thumbsup: :party:

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Alan H
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Re: Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland

#3 Postby Alan H » June 9th, 2017, 7:32 pm

Attorney General to appeal ruling granting legal recognition to humanist marriages in Northern Ireland
This morning, the High Court in Belfast ruled that the upcoming humanist marriage ceremony of Laura Lacole and Eunan O'Kane should receive legal recognition, and that such marriage ceremonies should generally be recognised. However, Laura's solicitors have now received a Notice of Appeal served by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland. It is not clear, at this stage, whether this action even has the support of the original respondents to the challenge, the General Register Office (GRO) and the Department of Finance.

Model/public speaker Laura and Republic of Ireland/Leeds United midfielder Eunan, both humanists, are due to get married on 22 June. As things stand the various Orders of the High Court Judge remain legally valid and effective and the couple intend to marry, in accordance with those Orders. The couple have now made contact with the GRO to ensure that a legally valid marriage can take place on their intended date.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, said, 'This is a very disappointing development given the comprehensive nature of the judgment and is deeply upsetting for both Laura and Eunan, who were so happy to have had certainty in relation to their wedding later this month. Wedding plans are at an advanced stage and this hasty development has now created wholly unnecessary uncertainty and stress for the couple.

'The Attorney General is going to extraordinary lengths at public expense just to stop two people who love each other from getting legally married in accordance with their beliefs. We hope that common decency might still prevail and that the Attorney General will reconsider this misconceived appeal. If an appeal does proceed, we at least hope it will be expedited and heard in advance of the wedding date or, if that is not possible, that the Orders made by Mr Justice Colton this morning will remain valid and not be set aside in the interim.

'If the proposed appeal does proceed we understand that it will be robustly defended by Laura in order to vindicate the humane, carefully considered and entirely lawful judgment of Mr Justice Colton.

'Laura and Eunan deserve the right to marry in accordance with their beliefs just as much as any religious couple.'
Alan Henness

What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU? Anyone? Hello? Hello?

"We're all in this together, but some are more in it than others."
— Me, with apologies to Napoleon

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Alan H
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Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 10:26 pm

Re: Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland

#4 Postby Alan H » June 19th, 2017, 5:26 pm

First legal humanist wedding ceremony in Northern Ireland will go ahead, Thursday
June 19th, 2017



Humanists Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane have been granted legal authority by the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland to have their Humanists UK-accredited humanist celebrant be authorised to conduct a legal marriage ceremony.

The decision follows a hearing at the court today on an appeal by Northern Ireland’s Attorney General, General Register Office, and Department of Finance, against the landmark High Court ruling on 9 June which gave legal recognition to humanist marriages.

Laura and Eunan’s wedding will be the first legal humanist ceremony in Northern Ireland and the first in the UK outside of Scotland.

Laura, a model and public speaker, and Eunan, a Leeds United and Republic of Ireland midfielder, have been supported in bringing their case by Humanists UK and its section Northern Ireland Humanists.

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is deeply personal and conducted by a humanist celebrant. It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the humanist beliefs and values of the couple, conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values. Humanist weddings have been legally recognised as marriages in Scotland since 2005 and in Ireland since 2012, but to date couples in Northern Ireland, England, and Wales have been required to have an additional register office ceremony to make their humanist wedding legally binding.

Laura Lacole commented, ‘Eunan and I are relieved to now have legal recognition for our humanist ceremony on Thursday. All we’ve been asking for is to be able to get married in a form that reflects our deepest-held beliefs and values. Knowing that this can now happen is an amazing feeling. I’m so happy that we’ve taken such an important step forward.’

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, said, ‘We’re over the moon that Laura and Eunan will now be able to have the legal humanist ceremony that they want. The determination with which they took this case forward has been incredible to witness, and the fact that Northern Ireland will now have its first legal humanist ceremony is of historic significance. We very much look forward to celebrating their marriage with them in just a couple of days’ time.’

The wider question as to the future recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland has been stayed until a further Court of Appeal hearing in September. The High Court found on the 9 June that the ban on such marriages having recognition is discriminatory. This decision has not been overturned, but will be subject to the further hearing.

Mr Copson commented, ‘It has been extremely frustrating for all of us to see the Northern Ireland Government and Attorney General squander public money to try to stop humanist couples from having the marriages they wish. While there has now been some delay to any decision on the wider principles at stake, we nonetheless very much hope that this appeal is unsuccessful, and the original High Court decision is allowed to stand.’

Ms Lacole added, ‘Eunan and I are hopeful that after September, the right to a legal humanist ceremony that we will have enjoyed will be extended to other couples in Northern Ireland.’

About the case

The case is being taken on human rights grounds, targeting the discriminatory law that has meant that religious people are able to have legal marriage ceremonies in line with their beliefs, but humanists have, until now, not been able to do likewise.

Laura and Eunan’s wedding ceremony is taking place on Thursday. The decision today means that they will now have a legal humanist ceremony, the first ever in Northern Ireland. However this fact does not prejudice the wider outcome of the case, namely whether the current law discriminates against humanists, which is to be determined following a further hearing by the Court of Appeal in September.

Legal recognition has already had a transformative effect on Scottish and Irish society. In Scotland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to over 4,300 in 2015, overtaking the Church of Scotland in the process. In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2015 around six percent of legal marriages were humanist, more than three times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.
Alan Henness

What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU? Anyone? Hello? Hello?

"We're all in this together, but some are more in it than others."
— Me, with apologies to Napoleon


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