Ireland Legalizes Weddings Performed by Humanists

In Ireland, if a Humanist Celebrant performed a wedding, it was only symbolic. You still had to have a civil ceremony for the wedding to be legally-binding.

Not anymore, though.

The Humanist Association of Ireland recently announced that a bill has passed both the Dáil and the Seanad that would expand the number of people who can solemnize weddings. All that’s left is for the President to sign it:

This is a major victory for the Humanist Association of Ireland which has been campaigning for this change for the past decade.

Humanist wedding ceremonies have grown in popularity in recent years but, in order to have a legally binding marriage, couples have had to have a civil ceremony in addition to their Humanist ceremony. This change in legislation will give legal status to Humanist ceremonies and so provide real choice for couples getting married.

In early January the HAI will apply to the Registrar for registration under this new legislation and the HAI-accredited celebrants will have their names added to the General Register Office list of solemnisers.

The text of the bill itself explains why this action needed to be taken:

It is clear that many citizens wish to celebrate their commitment to each other through a non-religious marriage ceremony. Of the 19,828 marriages held in 2011, almost 6,000 were civil ceremonies. This represents 29% of all marriages performed in 2011 and compares to a figure of 6% of marriages in 1996. The Bill will allow valid marriages to be performed by bodies that fulfil the criteria of a secular body as laid down in the Bill, reflecting the varied belief systems in a modern society which still holds marriage as a valuable life choice. In this regard, the Bill extends the definition of the term “body” in relation to marriages to include a “secular body”. It sets out criteria which must be met by a body before it can apply to have marriages solemnised by one of its members.

Ireland: 1. Indiana: 0.

(via Humanisticus)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Good and Godless

    And that e-card’s “And God Bless” pretty much cancels out the “civil, non-religious,non-denominational” part.

    • MichaelBrice

      maybe intended as a joke?

  • Gary Hill

    In Ireland’s near neighbour, Scotland, humanist weddings have been legal since 2005. They now outnumber Catholic weddings – now that would be something I’d like to live to see in Ireland!

  • Phil

    And of course only between two people of the opposite sex.

    • HughInAz

      At least Ireland has civil unions, which puts it ahead of a lot of US states.

      • porchhound

        What do you think a justice of the Peace wedding ceremony is? It doesn’t get any more secular than that! The US has NO LAWS denoting ministerial licensure requirements…that is why the online ordination system is booming!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Natalie-A-Sera/743004321 Natalie A. Sera

    Well, I wish Ireland would put life-saving abortions above, or at least on a par, with secular marriages. I will never forget the story of the Indian dentist who suffered an incomplete miscarriage, and was denied medical care to complete the miscarriage and died of septicemia as a result, because there was still a fetal heart beat. Kill 2 “people” for the price of 1. (the fetus wasn’t and never would have been a person!) :-(

    • Gary Hill

      To be fair Natalie, Irish law does allow abortion in the circumstances you have mentioned – the problem in that particular case was that the medical personnel involved did not follow the spirit of the law, they were being overcautious in their interpretation of the law. Given the mood following that instance and the general mood in Ireland re individual liberties I think it’s unlikely to happen again.

  • P

    Way to go Ireland!!!


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