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Legal change will allow humanists to carry out civil weddings

An amendment to the Civil Registration Act will allow other groups – and not just ‘religious’ ones – to carry out civil weddings.

Image: adamjonfuller via Flickr

IRELAND’S LAWS on civil marriage are to be amended in order to allow members of the humanist community to carry out civil weddings.

Labour has tabled an amendment to the Civil Registration Act, which governs civil marriages in this country, which will allow groups other than those who observe religious worship to apply for licences to carry out weddings.

Senator Ivana Bacik, who leads the party in the Seanad, will propose the amendment in the upper house tomorrow.

“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,” Bacik explained.

“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.”

This is why under current law, a couple marrying in a religious ceremony – such as those in a typical Catholic church – can also have their marriage considered valid from a legal perspective.

“The problem is that the Humanist Association of Ireland cannot be licenced, because they don’t engage in religious worship,” Bacik said.

The bill – which is only one page long – will allow the Minister for Social Protection to designate other non-religious groupings, such as the humanists’ group and others, to apply to local registrars for licenses.

The move will not affect same-sex civil partnerships, which are legally distinct from civil marriages.

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Gavan Reilly

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