Lib Dems call on PM to allow humanist marriages in the UK

Late in 2014, I wrote to my MP, Lynne Featherstone, following a call to action by the British Humanist Association. I’ve just received a response from my MP expressing her support for humanist marriages and a copy of a letter she wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron on our behalf.

Good afternoon,

Thank you for your email and for sharing your views with regards to Humanist marriages. My apologies for the delay in getting back to you but I was waiting for a clarification of the situation on this issue.

What I feared became reality: it was reported on Sunday 14th December that the Conservatives will be blocking the legalisation of humanist weddings because they see it as a ‘fringe’ issue that could muddy their key messages ahead of the General Election.

As you know, Liberal Democrats believe that two consenting adults should be able to marry, and in a ceremony that reflect their personal values and beliefs. This is why we are in favour of the legalisation of humanist ceremonies in England and Wales.

I appreciate that humanist weddings appeal to an increasing number of couples who are non-religious, but who are not attracted by the option of a civil marriage ceremony. As a Liberal Democrat, I strongly support the principle of individual freedom and personal choice.

The current law in England and Wales means that anyone who has a humanist wedding must have an additional ceremony, in a registry office or another approved venue, before their marriage can be recognised. We want humanist weddings to be legally recognised.

When the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was debated in the House of Commons last year, several of my Lib Dems colleagues suggested amendments that would have allowed this to happen. Unfortunately, these amendments did not get enough support to be included in the Bill. However, the Coalition Government did agree to give this issue further consideration.

Section 14 of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2014 placed a duty on the Secretary of State to carry out a review into whether belief organisations, including humanist celebrants, should be allowed to solemnise marriages. The Act stated that the outcome of this review has to be published no later than 1st January 2015.

I have now written to the Prime Minister on your behalf, highlighting your concerns and asking for them to be addressed. Please find attached a copy of my letter for your information.

I shall of course come back to you as soon as I receive a response. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to get in touch again if you would like to discuss this further or if I can be of any other assistance as your MP.

Kind regards,

Lynne Featherstone MP

Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green

Here’s her letter to the PM:

Dear David,

RE:  Humanist weddings

I am writing on behalf of a number of my constituents who have expressed concerns regarding the legal recognition of humanist weddings.

My constituents are concerned that the Government has not published the promised review with recommendations over this issue yet. They are worried that there is very little time left before the General Election and that this short timetable could slip leaving them in the same unequal situation.

My constituents outlined that if the state can recognise the weddings of an unlimited range of religious organisations as marriages, there is no reason for it not to similarly recognise those conducted by a humanist organisation. They believe that the legal recognition of humanist marriages would be simple, popular, and would remove unreasonable disparities between different parts of the UK.

I would be most grateful if you could comment on the specific issues that have been raised. Thank you for your kind attention in this regard and I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

Lynne Featherstone MP

Labour and the Greens also support extending the marriage act to humanists. The Sunday Times revealed on December that Number 10 has intervened to block humanist marriages.