Six couples have launched a landmark in the Supreme Court to make humanist marriages legally recognized in England and Wales.
The historical challenge is part of a campaign calling for humanist ceremonies that weigh as much as religious marriages.
Under current law, couples wishing to hold a humanist ceremony in England and Wales must either attend a second civil ceremony at a registry office or accept that their marriage has not been legally recognized.
Despite the limitations, both Scotland and Northern Ireland have accepted legal recognition of humanist ceremonies.
Victoria Hosegood and Charli Janeway, of Tonbridge, Kent, will face Supreme Court judges on a claim that people with a humanist faith deserve the same rights for marital recognition
Victoria Hosegood and Charli Janeway, of Tonbridge, Kent, are among the couples participating in the legal process.
They will meet with the Supreme Court judges via a video conference on July 7-8 to claim that people with a humanist faith deserve the same rights of recognition in marriage as those of other beliefs.
Ms. Hosegood said, “This is a violation of human rights. Humanism receives the same level of protection as religious worldviews, and the fact that you cannot have a legally recognized marriage is a violation of those rights. ‘
The couple planned to get married in a humanist ceremony in September this year, but have postponed it until September next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
If they manage to win the Supreme Court case, they will be able to legally get married in a humanist ceremony in the near future, they said.
Ms. Hosegood, who works for heritage conservation for her congregation, said: “We wanted a humanist ceremony and researched it, and realized we couldn’t have it without going through a civil ceremony process at the same time. It is unfair and we want it to change.
Retired Kate Harrison and Christopher Sanderson of Lincolnshire say they won’t get married until humanist marriages are legally recognized
“Our marriage is a very important life event for us, and the humanistic ceremony we plan to hold is the most important part of our day.
“It reflects our view of the world, how we want to live our lives and how we treat not only each other, but the rest of society.
EXPLAINED HUMANISTIC WEDDINGS
A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony performed by a humanist celebrant who shares the beliefs and values of the couple.
It differs from a civil marriage in that it is completely personal and reflects the couple’s beliefs.
In England and Wales, more than 1,000 couples a year have a humanist marriage without legal recognition, Humanist UK said.
Parliament has empowered the government to legally recognize humanist weddings in 2013, but this has not happened so far.
Since then, more than 6,000 couples have held humanist ceremonies that are not legally recognized.
“Marriage laws must reflect the makeup of modern society, including the growing number of humanists, which is why we consider this matter so important.”
Mr. Janeway works in commercial development for a good cause, adding, “I think many people would identify with humanism without realizing it.
“There are more and more non-religious people, and they may want to fit in a camp of some sort and not really know where to go.
“When you start reading an overview of what humanists believe in, the point is to be a decent person – nothing more.”
Their case is supported by Humanists UK, which has been campaigning for the legal recognition of humanist marriage for decades.
Lincolnshire retired Kate Harrison and Christopher Sanderson, who have been together for 14 years, are also taking part in the legal challenge.
They want to get married in a humanist ceremony that embraces their beliefs and said they won’t get married until humanist marriages are legally recognized.
Jennifer McCalmont and Finbar Graham of Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, also want to get married in a humanist ceremony and plan to have the wedding on the beach in Devon, where they first vacationed together.
In their home in Northern Ireland, humanist marriages are already legally recognized, so they could just hold the ceremony there, but they want their wedding to be in Devon for its meaningful location.
Civil servant Jennifer and landscape architect Finbar say that humanism resonates with them and wants to have the wedding on the beach in Devon, where they first holidayed together
Mixed-sex couples were able to enter into civil partnerships for the first time in 2019 due to a similar campaign to change the law.
The Equal Civil Partnerships campaign started after Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld were refused a civil partnership in 2014 because they were not of the same sex.
After years of campaigning, they brought the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled that same-sex couples were discriminatory against having access to partnerships between partners and UK law was incompatible with human rights laws.
HUMANIST WEDDINGS: THE LEGALITIES IN THE UK
Humanist marriages have been legally recognized in Scotland since 2005 and are performed by celebrants trained by the Humanist Society Scotland.
Recent figures show that humanist marriages are now the first choice in Scotland for couples who want something more personal than a civil marriage. They account for more than 20 percent of all marriages there.
Humanist marriages received legal recognition in Northern Ireland in 2018. Celebrants who are members of the Humanist Ceremonies network can hold legal ceremonies and complete legal documentation as part of a humanist ceremony.
Since they have been legally recognized, the number of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland has skyrocketed as more and more people appreciate the opportunity to make their special day all about them, their values and their love.
In England, Wales and the Isle of Man, humanist marriages are not yet legally recognized. They are in no way ‘illegal’ – but the law means that couples in these places must keep the ceremony separate from the legal ‘signing of the register’, which is usually done a few days before or at a local register after a humanist ceremony or at a separate event on the same day.
Humanists in the UK say that more than 1,000 couples a year already have a humanist ceremony, and then a separate civil marriage.