Northern Ireland

Laura Lacole clears first stage in humanist marriage legal bid

Laura Lacole
Image caption Laura Lacole is challenging the General Register Office for refusing to officially authorise the ceremony

A Belfast woman has cleared the first stage in a legal bid to have her forthcoming humanist marriage to an international footballer legally recognised.

Laura Lacole is due to wed Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan O'Kane at a venue in Northern Ireland next month.

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

It is due to be conducted by a British Humanist Association celebrant.

Her action is also directed at Stormont's Department of Finance's alleged failure to introduce legislation allowing the couple to have a legally recognised and binding wedding occasion.

Ms Lacole's lawyers claim that she is being discriminated against under European laws protecting freedom of belief.

Granting her leave to seek a judicial review at the High Court in Belfast, a judge said: "It seems to me this is an arguable case and an important matter of public interest has been raised."

Image caption Ms Lacole is due to wed Eunan O'Kane (above) who is a Republic of Ireland football international

Proceedings will now advance to a full hearing later this month.

Ms Lacole, 27, and Mr O'Kane, 26, who is originally from Feeny in County Londonderry, both described themselves as humanists - a non-religious combination of attitudes and beliefs centred on human experience and welfare.

Humanist marriages are currently legally recognised in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

Under current legislation in Northern Ireland a couple wanting such a ceremony must also have a separate civil registration for their marriage to be recognised in law.

Outside court, Ms Lacole said the couple had decided to go public about their relationship and imminent marriage because of the importance of the issue.

Ms Lacole, who is also vice-chair of Atheist NI, said: "We want to get married in a ceremony which embraces our values, who we are as individuals and how we see life, just in the same way as any religious person would want to be married in a ceremony reflective of their beliefs."