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Humanist marriage ceremonies on track to being legally recognised

Currently, humanist ceremonies are not recognised – but an amendment to the Civil Registration Bill 2004 is expected to change this.

Image: Wedding Photography by Jonathan Day via Flickr/Creative Commons

HUMANIST MARRIAGE CEREMONIES are on track to being legally recognised.

Brian Whiteside of the Humanist Association Ireland told TheJournal.ie that the subject will be brought up in the Seanad tomorrow.

Senator Ivana Bacik brought the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill before the Seanad in private members’ time in December.

At the time, Bacik explained:

Under current versions of the Act, only people who can legally celebrate marriages… are either HSE registrars, or members of a religious body designated by the chief registrar.
Once you come in under a religious body – which is defined as ‘an organised group of people members of which meet regularly for common religious worship’ – you can register your individual members as celebrants.

Humanism is not religious but is an ethical philosophy of life, based on a concern for humanity in general and for human individuals in particular.

The Irish Times reports today that at today’s Cabinet meeting, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton will ask her ministerial colleagues to support the amendment to the Bill.

The Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill will amend the Civil Registration Act 2004 and will enable the Minister for Social Protection to designate bodies which may apply for the registration of members to solemnise marriages.

The amendment would mean that in Section 45 of the Act of 2004 the words “ ‘body’ means an authority or a religious body” would be replaced with: “ ‘body’ means an authority or a religious body or a body designated by the Minister”.

Brian Whiteside of the Humanist Association of Ireland said that the HAI is “optimistic” that the amended Bill will proceed as planned. He said the members are “very excited” about it and that they “have been fighting hard for this for a long time”.

When the Civil Registration Act 2004 came in we looked for recognition at that stage. We made a submission in 2003 and we were given every indication that we would be included at this stage. However we were told there were drafting difficulties. We didn’t make any progress until the change of Government last year.

This change was when Senator Ivana Bacik, who “has been our champion so to speak” came on board, said Whiteside.  The Bill will go to its final stage tomorrow after “many hours and sweat and labour”, he added.

Last year there were 153 humanist ceremonies in Ireland. Currently they are not legally recognised, so couples must also have a civil registration ceremony.

“We are living in a changed and changing Ireland and world, as we all know,” said Whiteside. “The recent census results show that 270,000 people ticked the box that said no religion.”

He explained that humanist ceremonies are chosen by people who aren’t terribly religious and who are looking for a different way to celebrate their marriage, which is “very personal, very meaningful and real to them”.

“We are creating something of  a community for like-minded people. We are also providing ceremonies and campaigning for change,” said Whiteside, adding that humanist funerals have also become quite popular. “The demand for humanist funerals is growing very strongly. People lose a loved one and want to mark the occasion in a real, meaningful way.”

Read: Seanad “should reflect in silence before daily prayer”>

Read: Legal change will allow humanists to carry out civil weddings>

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