Jersey’s humanist and same-sex marriage law comes into force
Jersey’s Law giving legal recognition to humanist and same-sex marriages has received royal assent today. This means the Law has now completed its legislative passage and comes into force today. However, the first legal humanist marriages are still some months away, as celebrants now need to complete an accreditation process with the state. Channel Islands Humanists and Humanists UK have welcomed the news, and looks forward to the first humanist marriages taking place soon.
When will the first humanist ceremonies take place?
The Law sets up a process by which celebrants can register with the state for the purposes of performing legal marriages. In order to register, celebrants need to hold a recognised qualification, and Humanists UK’s training and accreditation process will be so recognised. Once registered, celebrants then need to complete a state-run training process before they are able to start performing legal ceremonies.
As of today celebrants can register for the training but the States of Jersey is yet to schedule the first training. It is anticipated that this will take place in the next few months. Until celebrants pass this training, it is not possible to have a legal humanist marriage. In the meantime however couples can continue to have humanist wedding ceremonies with Humanists UK’s celebrants – but would also have to have a civil marriage to gain legal recognition.
As for same-sex marriages, they are now available immediately. Legal same-sex humanist marriages will start occurring at the same time as legal opposite-sex humanist marriages.
States Assembly Deputy Louise Doublet was the first to propose legal humanist marriage. She is also on the Committee of Channel Islands Humanists. Welcoming the completion of the passage of the Law, Louise commented, ‘It’s been a long journey since my proposition to introduce legal humanist and open-air marriage in 2015. I’m delighted that our new marriage laws are now in force and I want to thank the team at Humanists UK for the support they have provided in getting to this point. Locally trained Humanists UK celebrants are keen to take the final steps and engage with the extra training provided by the Superintendent Registrar. Jersey is leading the way by recognising humanist marriages and as well as providing another option for non-religious islanders, I’m hopeful that we will see benefits in terms of UK residents travelling to our beautiful island for their big day.’
Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We’re delighted that humanist marriages are now on the statute books in Jersey, and that it’s only a matter of months before the first ceremonies will be performed. Jersey is leading the way in offering meaningful choice to non-religious couples so that they can have a ceremony that’s able to fully reflect who they are and that’s unique just to them.
‘Coming in the same week as the Court of Appeal gave legal recognition to humanist marriages in Northern Ireland, and new stats showed Humanist Society Scotland performing more marriages last year, for the first time, than the Church of Scotland, this week truly has been a momentous week for humanist marriages across these isles. But England and Wales continues to lag behind. Surely it is past time the UK Government wakes up to the need for recognition there too.’
Couples can find a humanist wedding celebrant at https://humanism.org.uk/ceremonies/find-a-wedding-celebrant/
About humanist weddings
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 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 almost 7,000 in 2017, 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 three times as many as there were (Protestant) Church of Ireland marriages.
In England and Wales, marriage law is different from in Northern Ireland and Scotland. But the recognition in Jersey, as well as the decision in Northern Ireland and ongoing proposals in Guernsey, surely means that the prospects of legal recognition have now become much more likely. 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. Now Humanists UK is asking the Government to urgently do so. Last week the Welsh Assembly heard calls to devolve marriage law due to concern about the UK Government's inaction.