Private Members Bills on Marriage

Baroness Cox has introduced the Marriage Act 1949 (Amendment) Bill into the House of Lords. This would amend the Marriage Act to make it an offence to purport to solemnise an unregistered marriage.

The full text of the Bill can be found at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/lbill/58-01/085/5801085.pdf

The Bill would add one new section to the 1949 Act:

Any person who knowingly and wilfully purports to solemnize a marriage (not being a marriage according to the rites of the Church of England, a marriage according to the usages of the Society of Friends or a marriage between two persons professing the Jewish religion according to the usages of the Jews) of two persons whose marriage has not been registered, and is not registered in the course of the solemnization, commits an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine

A similar Bill was introduced by Baroness Cox in the previous Parliament but that sought to make a number of amendments culminating in a provision that stated:

Any person who knowingly and wilfully purports to solemnize a marriage which may not be lawfully registered pursuant to Parts I to IV of this Act shall be guilty of felony and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five year

While the reduction of the sentence is welcome, there remains the question of whether such an offence is necessary and whether it will deal with the issue of unregistered marriages, as I have explained in a previous blog Post

The question for the House at Second Reading will be what mischief this offence is designed to overcome and whether it will do so.

There are other marriage-related Private Members Bills being considered this session. The Marriage (Approved Organisations) Bill would allow authorised belief organisations to solemnise marriages. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill would require people to be over 18 before they could marry or enter a civil partnership.

The Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill has also been re-introduced, dealing with financial settlements following divorce. For a critique of the original version of that Bill see this comment I co-authored with Dr Sharon Thompson, as well as her submission to Parliament during the previous session.

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