Recognise humanist marriage, say model and soccer player
Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane say Northern Ireland law discriminatory
Model Laura Lacole and footballer Eunan O’Kane outside the High Court in Belfast where a landmark legal case by the pair to secure official recognition of their humanist wedding is due to be heard. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Eunan O’Kane in action for the Republic of Ireland in 2016. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
A model and an international footballer seeking legal recognition of their humanist wedding are being denied rights afforded to religious couples, a court has been told.
Under current law, Ms Lacole and Mr O’Kane’s planned humanist wedding in the region next month will not be recognised in law. For such recognition they would need to have a separate civil ceremony.
The couple were at Belfast High Court on Friday to challenge the status quo.
Opening the case in front of Mr Justice Adrian Colton, their lawyer Steven McQuitty said all they wanted was the same protection afforded to those of different belief systems.
“Religious people from Pagans to Free Presbyterians and everything in between enjoy a substantial legal privilege under law,” he said. “In a sense the State gives its legal blessing to such marriages.”
He claimed the law “denies the same privilege to equally valid groups”.
Humanism is a non-religious belief system that rejects the concepts of a higher deity or afterlife. Humanists adhere to a scientific view of the world and believe humans steer their own destiny.
Mr McQuitty said as the law stood in Northern Ireland the couple’s wedding on June 22nd would be “legally meaningless”.
Mr McQuitty told the court the case was of “huge public interest”, highlighting that there were 4,290 humanist weddings in Scotland in 2015, more than those conducted by the Church of Scotland.
Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin is also participating in the hearing.
Arriving at court on Friday morning, Ms Lacole said: “We are both humanists so we want to have a wedding ceremony that reflects who we are as people.
“We can’t see how you can differentiate between any types of beliefs. We think it should be recognised in Northern Ireland because there is a need for it. Whether we are a minority or a majority we should still be given equal rights.”
She added: “We hope that we get a good verdict which means that we can have the wedding ceremony that we want to have. If we don’t get it, we want to appeal so we can give other people the opportunity to have the wedding ceremony that they want.”
The case continues.