The Minister for Joan Burton, T.D. today (Thursday, 20th December 2012) announced that the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012 has now passed all stages by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Bill which will allow members of secular bodies to perform legal civil marriages, will now be prepared to go to the President, Michael D. Higgins for his approval and signature.
The Civil Registration Act 2004 provides for a register of solemnisers, who may be either registrars employed by the HSE or members of religious bodies, who are authorised under law to solemnise marriages in the State. The purpose of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012 was to include a third category of solemniser i.e. members of secular bodies.
Commenting on the Bill, Minister Joan Burton said: “It is clear that many of our citizens wish to celebrate their commitment to each other through a non-religious marriage ceremony. Out of the 19,828 marriages held in 2011, a total of 5,769 were civil ceremonies. This represents 29% of all marriages that year and compares to a figure of 6% of marriages in 1996.”
The Bill amends the definitions as contained in section 45 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 to provide for applications from secular bodies, provided they fulfil a set of criteria. In essence, the body must be:-
- an organised group of people;
- have a membership of not fewer than 50 people;
- the principal objects of the body must be secular, ethical and humanist;
- members of the body must meet regularly in relation to their beliefs and in furtherance of the objects;
- any rules of the body regarding marriage must not contravene the law;
- there must be appropriate procedures around the selection, training and accreditation of solemnisers;
- it must be in existence continually for at least 5 years on the date of making an application;
- it must have charitable tax exemption for at least 5 years as evidenced by an entitlement to an exemption under section 207 or 208 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997;
- it must not have the making of profit as one of its principal objectives; and
- it must maintain a register of its members.
In addition, certain types of organisations are deemed, for the purposes of the Bill, not to be secular bodies. These are Chambers of Commerce, organisations that are political, sporting/athletic, trade union/representative in nature and bodies that promote purposes that are unlawful, are contrary to public policy or morality, in support of terrorism or terrorist activities or for the benefit of an organisation of which membership is unlawful.
Minister Burton concluded by saying: “The proposal to include members of secular bodies in the register of solemnisers is one I support and I am delighted to have obtained the support of my colleagues in Cabinet for this proposal. Marriage is an important and valuable institution in Ireland. This Bill when enacted enhances the institution of marriage by acknowledging and legislating for people whose beliefs are not religious but rather secular, ethical and humanist and who wish to celebrate their wedding day in a manner that is most meaningful to them.”
Note for Editor
A list of bodies who are currently authorised under law to solemnise marriages in the State.