Welsh Government Support for Weddings Reform

Following a letter to me confirming that the Welsh Government ‘has expressed support’ for the Law Commission proposals on marriage law, Mick Antoniw MS (Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution) has confirmed this support on the floor of the Senedd.

The Minister was responding to a question from Joyce Watson MS which asked:

What discussions has the Counsel General had with other law officers regarding the campaign to grant humanist marriages legal recognition?

The Minister’s reply was as follows:

I thank the Member for an important question. The Welsh Government supports the Law Commission’s proposals for a framework that would allow non-religious belief organisations to conduct legally binding weddings. The Minister for Social Justice has written to the UK Government expressing support of these proposals and seeking this work being taken forward in a timely fashion.

It is great to see the Welsh Government’s support for wedding law reform and for the Law Commission’s proposals which would shift towards an officiant system.

The Law Commission developed these proposals in their consultation paper published in September 2020 and are due to produce their final report on the matter before the end of the year.

The Minister is correct to call for the recognition of weddings conducted by non-religious belief organisations. It is important, however, that an inclusive approach to this is taken.

The Law Commission’s schema in their consultation paper would allow for independent celebrants to be recognised.

As I have argued in my book and policy briefing, this is appropriate given the problem of defining ‘belief’ and the need not to replace one form of discrimination with another form. I propose that there is either a need to recognise organisations generally or to employ a rigorous definition of belief and a system of recognising independent celebrants.

It is great to see that the Welsh Government are calling for the UK Government to act on wedding law reform in a timely fashion. Marriage law is not a devolved matter but there would be a need to revisit this should the UK Government not adequately respond once the Law Commission produces its final report.

The current law on marriage is arbitrary and discriminatory, failing to reflect the social reality of weddings in the twenty first century. It is excellent to see Welsh Government support for this. Should the UK Government not enact meaningful reform for England and Wales then devolution of marriage law should be sought.

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