Wednesday, July 2nd 2014
- Restrictive interpretation of the Civil Registration Act 2004 excludes many suitable venues
- Legislative change needed to allow marriages and civil partnerships to take place at a wider range of venues.
As more and more people choose to get married outside of traditional religious settings the issue of where marriages and civil partnerships can take place has come under increasing focus. The Civil Registration Act 2004 as amended, requires that the solemnisation of marriages and civil partnerships ‘takes place in a place that is open to the public’. The Act itself allows for some degree of flexibility but it has been interpreted and applied in a very restrictive way.
Unfortunately this is having an impact on people’s ability to get married at a place of their own choosing. Many hotels and country houses, even sites operated by the OPW, are not able to facilitate weddings in venues that would be ideal. This means that civil marriages and civil partnerships can only take place in a permanent fixed structure, with 4 walls, a roof and that is open to the public. In hotels this is often restricted to one room and marquees cannot be used.
The idea behind this interpretation is that the venue can be identified and easily accessible in the event that there is an objection to the union. If we look to the UK and Northern Ireland, we can see that they effectively have the same requirements but they facilitate ceremonies at many suitable venues and they are not restricted to a permanent structure with four walls and a roof.
This week it has come to public attention that a legal challenge will be taken to the interpretation of the legislation. It is unfortunate that the simple issue of venues for weddings and civil partnerships should have end up in the courts. I have asked the Minister for Social Protection to consider making the appropriate changes to the legislation so that we can allow people to get married and enter civil partnerships at a wider range of venues.
Marriage and civil partnership are memorable life events that reflect the commitment of two people to each other and their vision of a shared life. The State facilitates and supports these commitments but it is disappointing that it is the State that prevents these great days taking place in a range of suitable venues. It was confirmed to me in the Dáil that the Minister has sought the advice of the Attorney General on this issue and I hope that this will be the basis for the change that so many couples want to see.