Religious groups and human rights expert give evidence on recognition of humanist marriages

28 March, 2018

‘Very supportive’ of legal recognition to humanist marriages: that was the message received today by the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG), when hearing evidence from Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Michael Booth of the Quakers in Britain, and human rights lawyer Ciaran Moynagh, in the latest session of its inquiry into legal recognition of humanist marriages. The session, which is part of an ongoing investigation into the ‘range of issues that the Government would be required to consider before giving legal recognition’, was the second on the subject, and focused on the law itself.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE is the Rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue and a former Chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK. He outlined the history of marriage law as it relates to Jewish groups, and ongoing practice today. He explained how it came to be that Jewish groups are able to marry people in any location (including outdoors) and gave his support to humanist marriages also gaining recognition. ‘Many people would be astonished that humanist marriages aren’t already recognised’, he said, adding ‘I can’t see what possible objection there could be.’

Michael Booth, the Church Government Adviser at the Recording Clerks Office of the Quakers in Britain, gave similar evidence, and also voiced his support. He set out the regulatory processes that the Quakers follow in order to register their marriages and provided useful advice as to the approach that Humanists UK may take in its own addressing of the subject.

Jonathan Romain, Michael Booth, and Ciaran Moynagh give evidence to Baroness Bakewell, Viscount Ridley, and Crispin Blunt MP.

Ciaran Moynagh is a solicitor specialising in human rights and founding partner of McLernon Moynagh Solicitors. He is representing Laura Lacole, who is taking her case for legal recognition of humanist marriage in Northern Ireland. He explained that in his view, human rights law compels such recognition – that a state of affairs that recognises religious but not humanist marriages is not a sustainable one and something that must be addressed.

The panelists were questioned by APPHG Co-Chairs Crispin Blunt MP and Baroness Bakewell, as well as Viscount Ridley. They discussed wider issues that may surround such recognition, and in line with the remit of the inquiry, considered what steps would need to be taken to address such issues.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on or 020 3675 0959.

Read about the inquiry’s previous meeting, which was focused on the law around the UK and crown dependencies:

Read the terms of reference of the inquiry:

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.

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