Attorney General to appeal ruling granting legal recognition to humanist marriages in Northern Ireland

9 June, 2017

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.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 020 3675 0959, or Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator on or on 07470 395090.

Press are free to use images made available by the couple:

Laura Lacole is also available for interviews, which can be arranged through Richy.

Read more about Humanists UK’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.