Legal recognition for Humanist wedding celebrants in Ireland

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 2 July 2013

The Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) is "delighted" that it has finally achieved legal status for Humanist marriage ceremonies.

HAI is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and has campaigned for legal recognition for many years and have been conducting Humanist marriage ceremonies for two decades.

In a statement, HAI said, "Following the passing of the Civil Registration Amendment Act last December by the Dáil and Seanad, the General Register Office added all current HAI-accredited celebrants to the list of solemnisers earlier this week. (One celebrant, Brian Whiteside, had been added in April.) The HAI applied on behalf of its celebrants to the General Register Office under the heading of a ‘secular body’. The Amendment Act added ‘secular body’; representatives of religions and HSE registrars could already solemnise marriages."

The appointment of Humanist solemnisers "clears the way for couples who want legal Humanist ceremonies to have this choice for the first time in Ireland."

However, the change was not without controversy, as the Act places conditions on applications from secular solemnisers which are "more onerous than on religions". The HAI held a last minute Extraordinary General Meeting last Wednesday to debate whether their applications should be withdrawn in protest at the higher burden. However, the membership voted in favour of continuing, regarding the inclusion of Humanist solemnisers as an opportunity which should not be overlooked. This does not preclude further campaigning to equalise the process for secular applicants with that of religious applicants in the future.

Sonja Eggerickx, president of IHEU said, "This is a victory for the Humanist Association of Ireland, the legal change having been prompted both by HAI's commitment to Humanist ceremonies over the years and by their campaign for reform. Ireland joins a small number of countries around the world which have extended the power to conduct legal wedding ceremonies, traditionally held by religious celebrants, to specifically Humanist celebrants.

"This is important work. In many countries a religious wedding is the only option, while in many other countries people must choose between a religious ceremony and a civil ceremony. In countries which do offer legal religious ceremonies an equality for the non-religious is required. A Humanist ceremony offers a value-laden alternative even to a civil ceremony, which can reflect more deeply the personal views of the couple being married. There is public demand for this choice and a moral case for equality. We congratulate the Humanist Association of Ireland for their efforts."

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