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Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 7th January 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Cox Baroness Cox Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress they have made on their commitment in the Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper to "explore the legal and practical challenges of limited reform relating to the law on marriage and religious weddings."

Photo of Baroness Cox Baroness Cox Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have, if any, to amend the Marriage Act 1949 to make it a legal requirement for couples to civilly register their marriage before, or at the same time as, their religious ceremony.

Photo of Lord Keen of Elie Lord Keen of Elie The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Ministry of Justice)

The law has long made provision for couples, including Muslim couples, to marry in their place of worship in a way that gives them legal rights and protections. The Government shares the concern that some people may nonetheless marry in a way that does not, and without appreciating the consequences.

The independent Sharia review has recommended an offence apply to religious celebrants marrying in a ceremonythat is outside the ambit of the Marriage Acts.. Any legislative proposal, including such an offence, must be thoroughly assessed for its fairness to all religious groups and for how far it could achieve the change of practice intended. That is why it is with the greatest care that the Government is continuing the exploration of both limited reform and non-legislative options that it began in detail in the spring.

Separately from this exploration, the Law Commission has begun its weddings project. It will make recommendations for how the wider law on getting married in England and Wales can be systematically reformed in a way that is simple, fair and consistent.

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