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Marriage: Reform

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL8047, tabled on 14 September 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answers by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 3 August (HL7029) and by Lord Keen of Elie on 4 August (HL7031), why they are pursuing reforms of marriage law separately to the ongoing Law Commission review; whether they plan to bring forward legal recognition of humanist marriages before the conclusion of that review; and if not, (1) why not, and (2) what consideration they have given to doing so on an interim basis.

Answered on

30 September 2020

The Government announced in June 2019 that the Law Commission will conduct a fundamental review of the law on how and where people can legally marry in England and Wales. This is an important and complex social policy reform and requires careful thought and consideration. As part of the review, the Government invited the Law Commission to make recommendations about how marriage by humanist and other non-religious belief organisations could be incorporated into a revised or new scheme for all marriages that is simple, fair and consistent.

The Law Commission has published its consultation paper and the Government, following the final report, will decide on provision on the basis of the Law Commission’s recommendations.

In parallel, the Government made clear when it announced the Law Commission project that it would also, as an interim measure, undertake work to allow more civil weddings and civil partnerships to take place outdoors through secondary legislation.

Alongside the Law Commission project, the independent Sharia review recommended an offence apply to religious celebrants marrying in a ceremony that is outside the ambit of the Marriage Acts. Any legislative proposal, including such an offence, must be thoroughly assessed for its fairness to all religious groups and for how far it could achieve the change of practice intended. That is why it is with the greatest care that the Government is continuing the exploration of both limited reform and non-legislative options that it began in detail last year.

On the question of timing the Government will make its intentions clear in due course.

And in regard to the implementation of the provisions in the Civil Partnership, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc) Act 2019, the Home Office is currently working on the secondary legislation, which will need to be debated in Parliament, to enable these changes to be introduced and an implementation date will be announced in due course.