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BHA welcomes progress towards legal recognition of same-sex and humanist marriages

In a good week for marriage reform, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed progress towards same-sex marriage in the UK and the legal recognition of humanist marriages in the Republic of Ireland.  The UK Equalities Minister Maria Miller outlined the UK government’s plans for same-sex marriage yesterday, with the first same-sex marriage ceremonies due to take place in 2014.  Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, the Seanad (the upper house of the Parliament) has passed the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill, to allow members of the Humanist Association of Ireland to perform legal marriages.

The BHA is a long-standing supporter of same-sex marriage, which it argued for at the time of the original Civil Partnerships Bill, and welcomes the government’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage.  The bill, which will be introduced in the House of Commons in January, will legalise civil same-sex marriages, as well as allow some religious organisations to celebrate same-sex marriages.

The BHA has also been campaigning for the legal recognition of Humanist weddings, and a Private Member’s Bill to give humanist weddings legal validity in England and Wales had its first reading in the House of Lords in May this year.  The bill is sponsored by Lord Harrison, member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group and a Distinguished Supporter of the BHA.  Humanist marriages began to be legally recognised in Scotland in 2005, and since then the Humanist Society of Scotland has reported a record numbers of couples opting for humanist ceremonies.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill, which will give legal recognition to humanist weddings, is expected to be passed by the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish Parliament) later this month.  The bill will change the regulation of the registration of civil marriages in Ireland, so that ‘secular bodies’ can celebrate legal marriages as well as religious ones.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented ‘We would like to see a situation where same-sex marriage will be legalised, and where humanist marriage ceremonies, for both gay and straight couples, will also have legal validity.  We are very glad that the legalisation of same-sex marriage has been brought a step closer, now that the government have outlined their legislation and will continue to campaign for the legal recognition of humanist marriage ceremonies in England and Wales. These two nations are looking increasingly the odd ones out in the British Isles.’


For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596 or at

News article in the Guardian – Gay marriage plans offer ‘quadruple lock’ for opposed religious groups:

News article in the Irish Times – Humanist weddings to have legal status:

BHA news article – Bill giving Humanist marriage ceremonies legal status in England and Wales is introduced into Parliament:

The BHA’s campaign on same-sex marriage:

The BHA’s campaign on Humanist weddings:

Details of BHA Ceremonies, including wedding and partnership celebrations:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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