The Church of England’s Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, has become the first bishop in 20 years to steer draft legislation through the entire legislative process in the House of Lords, the upper house of Britain’s Parliament. At present, marriage registers include the name of the bride and groom’s fathers. If the Registration of Marriage Bill becomes law it will allow the parties’ mothers to be named as well. The Bill also provides for the creation of electronic marriage registers in place of hand-written registers, which often lead to mistakes when details are added to electronic databases for searching.
The final stage of the legislative process – Third Reading – took place today. The Bill took just about one minute to clear its Third Reading stage without debate and was passed unanimously.
“I am delighted that the House of Lords has backed this Bill, which now gives the House of Commons an opportunity to correct a clear and historic injustice,” Bishop Alan said after the Bill cleared its House of Lords stages. ““As someone who has performed hundreds of marriages, it has always seemed shocking to me that mothers are systematically overlooked.
“This injustice dates to 1837 when children were viewed as a father’s property and little consideration was given to women. In this centenary year of women’s suffrage it is time to make this long overdue change.
“I am pleased to have had the backing not only of Peers and many in the Church, but a huge number of others, including tens of thousands who have signed public petitions, campaigners for women’s equality, and even genealogists.
“MPs from all parties support the aims of this Bill. I hope and expect the Government to treat it as a legislative priority when it comes to the Commons in the autumn, and urge MPs to give it their approval.”
The bill will be taken through the House of Commons by Dame Caroline Spelman, a Midlands-based Conservative MP who serves as the formal link between the House of Commons and the Church Commissioners.