Friday, June 29, 2018

Northern Ireland Appeals Court Says Humanist Wedding Officiants Are Permitted

In In re Laura Smyth, (NI Ct. App., June 28, 2018), the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal held that the General Register Office should have granted a license under the Marriage (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 to a marriage celebrant to perform a Humanist marriage ceremony for a couple seeking it. Northern Ireland's marriage law has separate provisions for civil marriages and religious marriages. The appeals court held that it would violate the European Convention on Human Rights' conscience protections (Art. 9) and its anti-discrimination provisions (Art. 14) to deny the license.  The Humanist officiant should be licensed under the Section 31 of the Marriage Order. While that provision is usually the basis for appointing a person to solemnize a civil marriage, the Marriage Order should be read to allow the Humanist officiant to conduct a ceremony that includes readings supporting or promoting humanist beliefs. The full text of the decision is not yet available online, but a lengthy court-authorized Summary of Judgment is available. Irish Legal News reports on the decision.