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Northern Ireland couple have hearing in humanist marriage court case

Humanists Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane have had their hearing in their challenge to gain legal recognition for their humanist marriage ceremony, which is due to take place next month. The one-day hearing took place at Belfast’s High Court, with the outcome to be announced shortly. If successful, it is hoped that humanist weddings would gain recognition in Northern Ireland as legal marriages. Model Laura and Leeds United/Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan are supported by Humanists UK and its section Northern Ireland Humanists in bringing the case.

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 80 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.

The case has been taken on human rights grounds, targeting the discriminatory law that means 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. Across the UK and Ireland, only Northern Ireland and England and Wales have not yet granted legal recognition.

Laura commented, ‘I’m very pleased to have had my and Eunan’s case heard in court. As humanists, it is so important to us that we are able to have a wedding ceremony that reflects who we are as individuals – our deepest beliefs and values – and it is grossly unfair that such humanist ceremonies are not currently legally recognised, when that is not true of their religious counterparts. We eagerly await the decision of the court.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson added, ‘It is simply wrong that, while religious people are able to marry in a ceremony that matches their worldview, humanists are not. More and more couples want to get married in a way that is unique to them, in matching their deepest-held viewpoints on life, and that is why humanist ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular right across the UK and Ireland. We very much hope that the court recognises that it is the right thing to do to extend legal recognition to humanist marriage ceremonies.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 0781 55 89 636, or Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator on or on 07470 395090.

Press are free to use images made available by the couple:
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Laura Lacole is also available for interviews, which can be arranged through Richy.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns around marriage laws:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.

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