Northern Ireland

Laura Lacole wins landmark case over humanist wedding

Laura Lacole Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The 27-year-old model is vice-chair of the organisation, Atheist NI

A bride-to-be has won legal recognition for her humanist marriage to an Irish footballer after a landmark legal battle in the High Court in Belfast.

Belfast model Laura Lacole will marry Republic of Ireland and Leeds United player Eunan O'Kane later this month.

Until now, humanist weddings were not recognised by law in Northern Ireland, so couples were also required to have a separate civil marriage ceremony.

A judge ruled this unlawfully denied them equality with religious couples.

He ordered the granting of temporary authorisation for a British Humanist Association (BHA) celebrant to perform a legally valid and binding wedding ceremony.

Ms Lacole, and Mr O'Kane have both described themselves as humanists - a non-religious combination of attitudes, ethics and beliefs centred on human experience and welfare.

Humanists adhere to a scientific view of the world and believe humans steer their own destiny.

The couple are due to marry in Northern Ireland on 22 June.

The 27-year-old model is vice-chair of the organisation, Atheist NI.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Laura Lacole is marrying Leeds United's Eunan O'Kane later this month

She had claimed she was being discriminated against under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)' protection for freedom of belief.

Her legal team argued that her chosen wedding ceremony would be "legally meaningless" without court intervention.

The judge held that the humanist ceremony was a manifestation of Ms Lacole's beliefs.

"The state has chosen to authorise the solemnisation of religious marriage ceremonies in recognition of those bodies' beliefs," he said.

"Having done so, in my view it should provide equal recognition to individuals who hold humanist beliefs on the basis of my findings that humanism does meet the test of a belief body and that a wedding ceremony conducted by a humanist constitutes a manifestation of that belief."

Ms Lacole welcomed the ruling, which could now be used by others seeking the same status.

Speaking outside court, she said: "It's amazing now that we are being recognised, it's not just a privilege applied to religions."

She said she had broken the news to her fiance who was not in court as he is training with the Republic of Ireland team.

"I'm just so pleased, what this means for us and to other people in Northern Ireland," she said.

"It's a landmark, I can't believe we have done it."

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