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Humanists are treated like second-class citizens

On May 1, the Irish government approved legislation allowing members of non-religious groups to perform civil marriages.

The Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill completed its progress in the Seanad on May 2. It proposes to give the right to conduct civil marriages to non-religious groups, which must be a "philosophical and non-confessional body".

In the UK, a couple who want a humanist wedding must arrange two separate ceremonies, one at a registry office and the other at the venue which they have chosen.

By contrast, most Christian weddings do not require a separate ceremony as the marriage is legally registered at the church where the ceremony is held.

These arrangements are discriminatory, because they treat non-religious people as second-class citizens by not recognising their own ceremonies. Humanists are, therefore, only seeking parity of esteem.

There is a proper system of accreditation in operation for humanist celebrants. All humanist celebrants in Northern Ireland have completed such a process and are perfectly capable of performing the role of officiant.

It is unjust to assume Christian celebrants are more competent than humanist celebrants.

The Scottish Parliament has already put into effect the necessary legislation for their jurisdiction.

The Northern Ireland Assembly should follow the Scottish precedent as soon as possible.


Director, Humanist Association (NI)

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