A CONSULTATION on whether to allow "non-religious-belief"
organisations, such as humanists, to conduct weddings has been
launched by the Ministry of Justice. Currently about 600 to 800
humanist weddings are carried out each year in the UK, but they do
not have any legal validity. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act,
which came into force this year, requires the Government to review
whether such "alternative" marriage ceremonies should be legally
The White Paper, published by the Minister for Justice and Civil
Liberties, Simon Hughes MP, asks whether there is a "substantial
case" for establishing non-religious-belief ceremonies as a third
type of legal ceremony, alongside religious and civil
As existing marriage laws are based on the ceremony's taking
place in a building registered for that purpose - with the
exception of Quaker and Jewish ceremonies - the consultation asks
whether such ceremonies should be allowed to be held outdoors, or
only on certified or non-religious premises. The paper says: "Many
couples . . . may wish to get married outdoors or in a
non-registered building, and so may view the change as unfair."
The British Humanist Society is campaigning to change the law to
allow humanist weddings to have legal status. In Scotland, a new
Bill has broadened the religious category of marriage to include
"religion or belief", putting humanists on the same footing as
The public consultation will run until September.