A cross-party group of MPs led by Caroline Spelman seeks to change marriage certificates to reflect ‘modern times’ with bill getting second reading this week
Mothers’ names could be added to marriage certificates for the first time if a cross-party group of MPs succeed in changing the wording on the documents, which campaigners say are no longer fit for modern times.
Marriage certificates list only the fathers of the couple getting married, which the government has previously resisted changing on cost grounds.
Caroline Spelman, a former cabinet minister, is to present a bill for second reading this week that would allow the name of the mothers of those getting married to appear on the certificate. The bill is co-sponsored by Labour MP Frank Field, the former culture secretary, Maria Miller, and Tim Farron, former Liberal Democrat leader.
Spelman is the second church estates commissioner, the Church of England’s official representative in the House of Commons. The bill will also set out a mechanism for a digital register of marriages, to prevent the high cost of replacing all marriage registers to allow the inclusion of mothers’ names.
A similar proposed law aiming to recognise mothers on marriage certificates was put forward by Labour MP Christina Rees in 2015, but was rejected by the government. The Home Office minister at the time, Richard Harrington, said he was “not convinced” the Neath MP’s bill was the “right way to deal with it” because the government also wanted to adapt the registration system for the digital age.
However, ministers are known to be generally supportive of the change. In December 2016, in a written answer, then-Home Office minister Robert Goodwill said the government was continuing to seek “suitable legislative opportunities” to introduce reform.
Efforts to make the change have stalled several times. David Cameron pledged to change the certificates in 2014, saying the arrangement “does not reflect modern Britain”. The latest version of the bill stems from a draft tabled last year by the Conservative MP Edward Argar, but the bill was never debated because parliament was dissolved for the snap June election.
Spelman’s bill is not the only attempt to change the law, with an identical bill also being proposed in the House of Lords by the Rt Rev Alan Smith, the Bishop of St Albans, with the aim of securing the change as quickly as possible.
Field said the bill was a matter of justice. “It’s a huge knock in the eye for mothers,” he said. “Children have two parents, even if they are not living together and every opportunity should be taken to affirm that truth, and particularly when it’s often the mum who is with the child if parents aren’t together anymore.
“It is an insult, really, to the person who has most treasured and nurtured you, in most instances. It goes against church teaching about the importance of both parents.”
Credit: The Guardian