Discrimination, plain and simple: Liberty intervenes in case of couple fighting for legal recognition of humanist weddings in Northern Ireland

11 August 2017

Human rights group Liberty has intervened in the case of a couple fighting for humanist weddings to be legally recognised in Northern Ireland.

Model Laura Lacole and her husband, Leeds United footballer Eunan O’Kane, married in June after winning the right to have their humanist wedding recognised by law.

Their victory in the High Court in Belfast put humanist ceremonies on an equal footing with religious and civil services.

But the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance have appealed against the High Court’s decision.


In arguments submitted today, Liberty has invited the Court to dismiss the appeal and uphold the High Court’s ruling.

Liberty disputes the Attorney General’s assertion that the case centres purely on the right to marry. Instead, it highlights that it is a clear issue of discrimination against humanist couples and a violation of their fundamental right to exercise their beliefs.

Refusing humanism the same status in law as religions and other belief systems fails to properly respect and protect the fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The Human Rights Act protects everyone’s right to manifest his or her religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty, said: “This is a case of discrimination, plain and simple.

“All this couple is asking for is the chance for humanists to express their beliefs on one of the most important days of their life.

“The High Court’s ruling was a landmark in rights protection – to take a step backwards would be a sad day for progress and fairness.”

The hearing is scheduled for Monday 11 September 2017.


Contact: Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656, 07973 831 128 or pressoffice@liberty-human-rights.org.uk.

Founded in 1934, Liberty is a membership organisation that promotes the values of individual human dignity, equal treatment and fairness as the foundations of a democratic society throughout the United Kingdom. Liberty campaigns to protect basic rights and freedoms through the courts, in Parliament and in the wider community. It does this through a combination of public campaigning, test litigation, parliamentary work, policy analysis and by providing free advice and information.