While Buddhists, Wiccans, Unitarians and even Scientologists can perform marriages in British Columbia, Humanists and other atheists are being discriminated against by the province's arbitrary implementation of the Marriage Act, according to a new report by the BC Humanist Association.
The Case for Humanist Marriage in BC sets out the current laws governing the solemnization of marriages in BC and across Canada and contrasts it with seven other jurisdictions around the world where Humanists are permitted to perform marriages. In Scotland, for example, Humanist marriages are now more popular than Church of Scotland weddings.
The report calls for a judicial challenge or legislative change to the province's Marriage Act.
The report includes the results of a freedom of information request that sets out which religions are recognized by Vital Statistics, the agency that oversees marriage licenses in the province. The 455 registered religious organizations include 6880 representatives, 90% of whom are Christian. Among the other registered organizations is the Canadian International Metaphysical Ministry, which exists primarily to license marriage celebrants.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
This FOI shows that there is no clear standard by which the Government is deciding which religions are valid and which aren't. Any list of religions that can include Animists, Wiccans, Spiritualists, Zen Buddhists and Scientologists can make room for Humanists.
The growing number of countries that provide options for Humanists to perform marriages debunks any argument against reform.
The overwhelming majority of British Columbians support non-religious groups being permitted to appoint individuals to perform marriages. This report gives a clear path for the government to change the Marriage Act.
Adam Kreek, Olympic Gold Medallist wrote in support of the campaign:
I've performed legal marriages in Vermont and California and I offered to deliver a personal and meaningful ceremony to close friends within my BC community. After extensive research into the regulations, we were required to hire a marriage commissioner who awkwardly sat and watched while I delivered the ceremony.
I support the call for BC's marriage laws to be updated to be inclusive of non-religious people. Those of us who are thoughtful-yet-non-religious should have more options to legally minister to our communities in BC.
The BC Humanist Association will be calling on BC's major political parties to include reforming the Marriage Act in their election platforms.