I’m delighted to have spoken at today’s conference organised by the Give Couples Choice Movement.
Their website can be found at: https://gccmovement.org
The event can now be watched on their FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/GCCMovement/videos/gccm-conference-2021/359656512515244/
The conference was held to discuss possible marriage law reform.
The modern law on marriage dates back to 1753 when it was made compulsory for all marriages to take place in the parish church except for Quakers and Jews.
This focus on buildings can still be found in the current law. The requirements in the Marriage Act 1949 are outdated and discriminatory.
The Act distinguishes between marriages solemnised according to the rites of the Church of England and all other marriages. This second category includes civil, Jewish and Quaker weddings as well as weddings in other registered places of religious worship.
So, weddings on a beach or at home or ceremonies conducted by a non-religious celebrant are not legally binding – unless and until the couple also undergo a civil ceremony.
This is discriminatory. It means that such couples have to go to the cost and inconvenience of having two ceremonies – one of which probably means little to them. Who after all describes their wedding as the happiest days of their life?
Law Commission Proposals
The Law Commission is currently reviewing the law on getting married. See: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/weddings/
In their consultation paper, published last year, they suggested moving to an officiant system. Religion or belief organisations could nominate officiants. And independent celebrants could apply to become officiants.
The Law Commission is expected to publish their final report by the end of the year. It will then be for the Government to decide whether and if so how to act.
This is a once in a generation opportunity to bring about marriage law reform.
See further my book on the topic, ‘Religion and Marriage Law: The Need for Reform’ from Bristol University Press: https://bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/religion-and-marriage-law
Read and download my policy briefing: https://www.transformingsociety.co.uk/2021/07/01/policy-briefing-recommendations-for-the-reform-of-marriage-law/
Read my article published in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/138657/1/Russell%2BSandberg_Marital%2BProblems.pdf
Listen to the podcast I recorded with the National Secular Society:https://www.secularism.org.uk/podcast/2021/10/ep-58
Watch the lecture I gave on the topic to the Ecclesiastical Law Society: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GWIAaf6jbRA
Watch the launch of my book featuring Baroness Hale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp57nk3w7FQ
Feel free to contact me to discuss this further at SandbergR@cf.ac.uk