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Explanatory Memorandum to Marriage (Northern Ireland) Order 2003

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6.The Order focuses on the central concept of equality, removing the existing complex and anomalous system that applies in many different ways to many different denominations and religions and replaces it with a uniform system of civil preliminaries applicable to all. It is based on the model that has operated in Scotland since 1977.

7.There are several main features of the Order. Articles 3-8 outline the new preliminaries, based on the use of a marriage schedule. Articles 10-17 reflect the shift in emphasis in the case of religious marriages from a system based on the registration of buildings to one based on the registration of officiants. This has the effect of allowing religious bodies to nominate persons to solemnise marriage but does not prescribe where a ceremony can take place (without in any way removing the right of an officiant to refuse to solemnise a marriage in a particular location). Articles 18-21 reflect changes to civil marriages. The rules that dictate that marriages can only currently take place in a registration office will be relaxed to permit marriages to be solemnised in other places, subject to control by the local registration district. Finally, Articles 22-38 deal with some supplementary and miscellaneous matters with a view to consolidating the existing law.

8.The Order makes the above changes within the context of the continued validity of religious as well as civil marriages, the minimal interference with existing freedoms of individual denominations and religions, equal treatment between those wishing to have a civil or religious marriage, certainty, simplicity, transparency and ease of application.

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