Fiancee of Leeds United star leads legal bid to secure official recognition of humanist wedding

Eunan O'Kane and Laura Lacole.
Eunan O'Kane and Laura Lacole.
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A landmark legal bid to secure official recognition of a humanist wedding is due to be heard in Belfast later this week.

Laura Lacole is due to wed Whites midfielder Eunan O’Kane in Northern Ireland.

She is challenging the General Register Office for Northern Ireland for refusing to officially authorise the ceremony.

Ms Lacole said: “Eunan and I are both humanists, so we want to have an intimate marriage ceremony which is encompassing of who we are as individuals, the values we hold, how we go about life, and our viewpoint on life.

“We want it to be personal to us and the love we have for each other.

“So, of course, not being able to have legal recognition for that ceremony is an issue for us, and we want to do something about that for ourselves and other people in our position. That is why we are taking this case.”

Any couple in Northern Ireland wishing to have a legally recognised marriage ceremony can only choose a religious wedding or a civil ceremony.

Anyone wishing to have a humanist wedding must also have a separate civil registration, the Humanists UK lobby group said.

This is also the case in England and Wales, but not in Scotland or the Republic of Ireland.

Humanists chief executive Andrew Copson added: “Religious people currently have the legal right to marry in a ceremony that reflects their most fundamental views of the world, but humanists cannot do likewise.

“They are denied legal recognition for a bespoke personalised ceremony that reflects the values of the couple involved, that they share with the celebrant, and that is built around them.

“That is why there is a need for legal recognition to be extended to humanist marriages, so that couples can enjoy such a wonderful start to married life together, free from discrimination while doing so.”

The case is due to be heard at the High Court in Belfast.

In Scotland humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2005.

The total rose from 80 in the first year to more than 4,300 in 2015.

In the Republic of Ireland humanist marriages gained legal recognition in 2012.

In 2015 around 6% of marriages were humanist.