Law Commission call for reform of outdated marriage law

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The Law Commission has published a scoping paper after requests from the Government to establish whether the current law is adequate in providing a ‘fair and coherent legal framework for enabling people to marry.’

The paper highlights conflicts that often result due the current legislation such as interfaith couples being unable to have one ceremony that caters for both religions. The strict rules governing religious ceremonies mean they must take place within a religious place of worship and civil ceremonies are not able to contain reference to religion. The restriction on where people can get married can also prevent couples from marrying somewhere meaningful and of personal significance to them such as their home or outdoors. The current legislation is described as being outdated and too restrictive therefore, not serving the modern and diverse society that we live in. This is because the current legislation is still aimed at the 19th century religious beliefs and does not take into account the diverse society that we now live in.

The Commission also claim that it needs to be clearer when a valid marriage has taken place to prevent a crisis if a couple were to be separated and only then realise their marriage is not legally recognised.

Due to these findings, the Law Commission calls for a full reform of the law to make it more modern, balancing the prevention of sham marriages with the wishes of individuals to have more choice regarding their wedding.

The Law Commission do not propose how the law could be reformed but instead provide questions to consider when reforming the law. The questions include:
– What does the state need to know before people can legally marry?
– Should all marriages have to take place in a stated location?
– What types of ceremony should be valid?
– What are the minimum requirements for a legally valid marriage?

Please read the full scoping paper on Getting Married (in PDF format).

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