Harrogate 'Celebrant' speaks out on Humanist weddings and landmark case in court

A Harrogate Humanist has talked about why she is supporting six couples going to the High Court next week to take a landmark challenge over the legal recognition of Humanist marriages.

Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 11:21 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd July 2020, 11:29 am
Supporting legal recognition of Humanist weddings - A Celebrant accredited with Humanists UK, Harrogate's Cate Quinn acts at bespoke humanist ceremonies, engagements, wedding, renewal of vows, funerals and memorials.

The Humanist couples are taking the case to try to compel the UK Government to change the law to recognise Humanist weddings as legally recognised marriages, as is the case with religious weddings across the UK and Humanist weddings in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Their lawyers will argue that the current law discriminates against them because of their Humanist beliefs and is therefore incompatible with human rights legislation, which precludes such discrimination.

The case is being supported by celebrants across Yorkshire and Humber, including Harrogate, who offer Humanist wedding ceremonies and are accredited by Humanists UK to do so.

Harrogate Celebrant Cate Quinn, who has spent most of her life in public service, said: When my husband and I were married over 20 years ago, we didn’t know about Humanist ceremonies and spent a lot of time trying to personalise our civil wedding ceremony so that it reflected our beliefs, included what we wanted to say to one another and took place somewhere that was deeply significant to us.

"But we were constrained by the strictures of a civil ceremony and registered venues. And so, I can understand why other couples with Humanist beliefs feel equally frustrated and discriminated against when they wish to do the same thing.

"Most of my career has been spent in public service and training to become a Humanist Celebrant seemed like a natural extension of that, thereby enabling couples to have a bespoke ceremony that is just right for them, promote Humanism and give me enormous satisfaction at the same time."

A Humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony conducted by a Humanist celebrant who shares the beliefs and values of the couple.

It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely personalised and reflective of the Humanist beliefs and values of the couple. Humanists UK has provided these ceremonies for many decades.

In England and Wales more than 1,000 couples a year already have a Humanist wedding without legal recognition.

They all must have a separate civil marriage – usually at a registrar’s office – for their marriage to be legally recognised, even though it is not what they want. Couples must go through formalities twice, leading to financial strain, and distress over the state failing to recognise their Humanist wedding as their ‘real’ one.

A Celebrant accredited with Humanists UK, Harrogate's Cate Quinn acts at bespoke humanist ceremonies, engagements, wedding, renewal of vows, funerals and memorials.

Cate Quinn said: "Many of the couples I have had the delight to conduct ceremonies for particularly like that the focus of the ceremony is on them as individuals, as a couple and as part of a circle of family and friends, rather than a predetermined script or liturgy.

"They also like the freedom to choose a venue that reflects their values and creates the right atmosphere for them to say some of the most important words they will ever say.

"For example, Paul Spencer and Mark Speak said they chose a Humanist ceremony because neither of them were religious and didn’t want a traditional church style wedding.

"They said "we wanted something that reflected us and our values. Humanism seemed the perfect match.""

Humanists UK chief executive Andrew Copson said: "Couples who have Humanist weddings see that day as the epitome of their love and commitment to each other, and all they want is the same legal recognition for that as is given to every religious person in our country.

"We have tried for decades to address this glaring double standard. Government has dragged its heels and that’s why it’s been left to these couples to bring this case.

"As more and more non-religious couples choose to have Humanist weddings, we need a law that works for all people who want to marry and we hope this case will lead to reform."

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