Header Item Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012: Order for Second Stage
 Header Item Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012: Second and Subsequent Stages

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Seanad Éireann Debate

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Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012: Order for Second Stage

 Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the Civil Registration Act 2004.

Senator Maurice Cummins: Information on Maurice Cummins Zoom on Maurice Cummins I move: "That Second Stage be taken now."

  Question put and agreed to.

Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012: Second and Subsequent Stages

  Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Before proceeding to outline the content of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2012, I compliment all those who worked so hard to prepare it, including various individuals and civil society groups that have advocated legislation in this area.

  The Civil Registration Act 2004 provides for the notification, registration and solemnisation of marriage. Only the Health Service Executive and religious bodies can apply for registration in the Register of Solemnisers established under the Act. The Bill will amend the Act by providing for an extension to the type of organisation that can nominate marriage solemnisers to include secular bodies.

  In Ireland marriage and the family unit are at the heart of the Constitution and part of our social fabric. When two people make a public commitment to each other by way of marriage, it is a cause of great celebration and an occasion on which not only do the two people wish to have their families and friends around them but also to celebrate in the belief system they hold dear. With this in mind, the Bill aims to extend the scope of marriage solemnisers across the spectrum of belief systems and formally acknowledge this in the registration system.

  I propose to offer some general observations on the rationale and general principles informing the content of this amending legislation and then proceed to summarise the provisions of the Bill. The marriage provisions of the Civil Registration Act 2004 arose from recommendations of the interdepartmental committee on the reform of the marriage laws. The need for a universally applicable framework of clear and simple procedures to underpin the solemnity of the marriage contract was among the issues identified by the committee as requiring examination. The main provisions of the Act concerning marriage are: common preliminaries and a single set of documentation for all marriages; the introduction of the marriage registration form as a single licensing system; the establishment of a Register of Solemnisers; and choice of venue for civil marriages. Section 51 of the Act provides that a marriage may only be legally solemnised by a registered solemniser. Section 53 provides for the establishment of a Register of Solemnisers. Section 54 provides that a religious body or the HSE may apply to have a member of that religious body or a registrar, respectively, entered in the register.

  It is clear that many citizens wish to celebrate their commitment to each other through a non-religious marriage ceremony. Of the 19,828 marriages held in 2011, almost 6,000 were civil ceremonies. This represents 29% of all marriages performed in 2011 and compares to a figure of 6% of marriages in 1996. The Bill will allow valid marriages to be performed by bodies that fulfil the criteria of a secular body as laid down in the Bill, reflecting the varied belief systems in a modern society which still holds marriage as a valuable life choice. In this regard, the Bill extends the definition of the term "body" in relation to marriages to include a "secular body". It sets out criteria which must be met by a body before it can apply to have marriages solemnised by one of its members.

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