In The South

Jersey recognises humanist and same-sex marriages

Besi Besemar February 1, 2018

Jersey passes new law giving legal recognition to both humanist and same-sex marriages.

Humanists UK led the campaign for recognition of humanist marriages and supported legal same-sex marriages as well.

A tabled amendment to give religious business-owners the right to refuse good and services to same-sex couples was soundly defeated by a majority of States Assembly members.

The decision to include humanist marriage legislation comes after a four-year campaign by Humanists UK and its member, States of Jersey Deputy Louise Doublet.

Humanists UK has begun training more celebrants in Jersey, in anticipation of the law coming into force, with the training starting on February 1 and 2.

Andrew Copson
Andrew Copson

Welcoming the news, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, said: “We’re delighted that Jersey has joined Scotland and Ireland in giving legal recognition to humanist marriages. And as humanists have performed same-sex wedding ceremonies for many decades, we can’t think of a more fitting occasion than at the same time as same-sex marriages become legal too. We look forward to marrying many happy couples in the months and years to come.’

Louise Doublet, Deputy of St Saviour No 2, who led the campaign for recognition, added, “This is fantastic news for Jersey and I am so grateful to Humanists UK for supporting me in campaigning for this. The changes that allow same-sex marriage have always been the most significant aspect of this legislation – but as a bonus, Jersey is also now ahead of England in offering marriage equality to those with non-religious beliefs such as humanism. I am expecting to see a surge in numbers of humanist weddings on the island, and am hopeful that local businesses will benefit as couples will be keen to travel from England and elsewhere to have a legally-recognised wedding performed by a Humanist UK celebrant. I cannot think of a better setting than our beautiful island.”

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is deeply personal and conducted by a humanist celebrant. It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the humanist beliefs and values of the couple, conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values.

Legal recognition of humanist marriages has already had a transformative effect on Scottish and Irish society.

In Scotland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005, and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to over 4,900 in 2016, overtaking the Church of Scotland in the process.

In the Republic of Ireland, humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012. In 2016 around seven percent of legal marriages were humanist, more than four times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.

In Northern Ireland, Humanists UK and its section Northern Ireland Humanists have been working through the courts to secure recognition of humanist marriages alongside public speaker Laura Lacole and footballer Eunan O’Kane. A High Court decision granted initial legal recognition to humanist marriages but this has been stayed as it was subsequently appealed by the Government. The Court of Appeal finished hearing the appeal in early January. Its decision is expected soon.

In England and Wales, since 2013 the UK Government has had the power to extend legal recognition if it wishes, but hasn’t chosen to use this power yet. Jersey’s move will increase the pressure for it to do so.