Leeds United player battling to change Northern Irish marriage law

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A Leeds United player is challenging Irish authorities to recognise his upcoming marriage ceremony.

Irish international Eunan O'Kane and his fiancee Laura Lacole, a model, are humanists, meaning that although they are not religious, they seek to live ethically fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity.

Currently, couples marrying in a humanist ceremony must also have a separate civil registration for the union to be legally recognised - meaning the humanist wedding is not valid in law.

The pair have gained permission to seek a judicial review over the failure of the Northern Irish authorities to extend legal recognition to humanist ceremonies. The case will be heard later this month.

Humanist marriages are recognised in Scotland and Ireland, and are popular in both countries.

"Marriage, for all couples, is a celebration of who that couple are, reflecting their deepest held beliefs and values. My wishes for my marriage are for it to reflect my deepest humanist values, much as a Christian might see their marriage as of special significance for them. People of all religions can be legally married in public ceremonies in accordance with their beliefs and by a celebrant who holds the same beliefs and values. My fiancé Eunan and I are only asking for the same rights as religious people already have," said Laura.

Midfielder O'Kane is from County Londonderry in Northern Ireland, whom he represented at youth level before switching to the Republic of Ireland to gain full international honours.

British Humanist Association chief executive Andrew Copson added:

"Humanist weddings are incredibly popular right across the UK and Ireland, and this is especially true where they are given legal recognition. UK laws should treat everyone equally, regardless of religion or belief, and so given the recognition given to religious marriages, it is past time that the same recognition is extended to humanist ones.

"We will be supporting Laura and Eunan throughout the case and wish them all the best in their wedding plans."