Landmark High Court battle over humanist weddings gets Norfolk backing

Humanist celebrant Dawn Rees. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Humanist celebrant Dawn Rees. Picture: Jamie Honeywood - Credit: Archant

A High Court battle to force humanist weddings to be legally recognised in England and Wales has been backed by Norfolk’s four celebrants who offer such ceremonies.

Six couples are going to the High Court next week in a landmark challenge to bring England and Wales in line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, where humanist weddings are legally recognised.

Humanist weddings are non-religious ceremonies which are conducted by a humanist celebrant, who shares the beliefs and values of the couple getting married.

But, because such ceremonies are not legally recognised, couples have to have a separate civil marriage, usually at a registrar’s office.

The humanist couples taking their case to court seeks to compel the UK government to change the law, arguing the current law discriminates against them because of their humanist beliefs.

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Dawn Rees, based at Tacolnesten, near Norwich, is one of the four humanist celebrants accredited by Humanists UK to provide such wedding ceremonies, in places such as gardens, fields, wedding venues, beaches and country houses.

She said: “So many of our couples just want to have one ceremony that is meaningful and legal.

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“They can see no reason why humanist ceremonies are legal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey and Jersey but not in England and Wales, nor can they understand the pressure to have a church ceremony when they hold no religious belief whatsoever.

“Many consider it discriminatory, most think it is unfair and all would prefer humanist ceremonies to be legally binding.”

She, along with fellow Norfolk humanist celebrants Mags Allison, Pam Thomson and Kate Evans, are supporting the High Court challenge.

A YouGov poll in 2018 found nearly seven out of 10 adults in England and Wales supported legal recognition of humanist weddings.

Humanists UK chief executive Andrew Copson said: “Couples who have humanist weddings see that day as the epitome of their love and commitment to each other, and all they want is the same legal recognition for that as is given to every religious person in our country.”

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