Another poke in the eye for those wicked people who can’t manage to bend the knee to a god.
Thousands of couples planning non-religious humanist weddings could have their hopes dashed after a row between the Tories and Liberal Democrats saw Number 10 veto proposals to give such marriages legal status.
The Lib Dems want people who are agnostic, atheist or simply do not want a religious ceremony to be able to have a secular wedding, outside of a register office. Couples could tailor their own ceremonies, and select venues that are not licensed for civil weddings.
Aaaaaaaand…who could possibly object to that? What is there to object to? People can secular-marry in a register office, so why forbid them to secular-marry outside a register office? What possible purpose could that serve other than protecting some absurd religious monopoly?
The British Humanist Association (BHA) reacted furiously to the news, saying it was “shameful” that non-religious couples could not marry in ceremonies with the same legal status as believers.
Under current English law, weddings can take place in any registered religious building including churches, mosques and even premises belonging to the Scientologists, Spiritualists and the Aetherius Society – whose members believe in aliens and that the Earth is a goddess.
They belieeeeve something; that’s what counts. It doesn’t matter what, as long as there’s no reason to think it’s true. People who fail to do that are eccentric and must be punished.
A historical exemption allows Jewish and Quaker ceremonies to be conducted anywhere – a legal provision that could be extended to allow humanist weddings. A government consultation, launched after the legalisation of gay marriage, found considerable public backing for the reform.
In Scotland, where humanist weddings have been legal since 2005, there has been an increase in the number of people getting married, against a general decline in the UK as a whole. Humanist weddings now account for 10 per cent of all Scottish marriages, making it the third most popular form of marriage in Scotland.
I guess humanists in England and Wales will just have to move north.
Andrew Copson, the chief executive of the BHA, described Number 10’s intervention as “astonishing”, saying it would be a “huge shock” for thousands of couples.
He said: “It is shameful that Number 10 would block the wish of thousands of couples to start their married life in a way that is personal and meaningful to them. Giving legal recognition to humanist marriages is a simple measure which adversely affects no one, has huge popular and political support, and would increase the number of people getting married each year.
“Under this government, Scientologists have been added to the list of religions that can perform legal marriages… To describe the legal recognition of humanist marriages as a “fringe” issue insults the many non-religious couples – much larger in number than these many small religious groups – whose planned marriages next year will not be able to go ahead if Number 10 blocks this change.”
It’s hard to disagree with him.
The BHA has waged a long campaign for humanist marriages to be made legal. A hard-won amendment during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 compelled the Government to hold a consultation on the issue and awarded them order-making powers to introduce it.
And Cameron just wadded it all up and threw it in the bin. Nasty.