Monday, May 20, 2024
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Corona and the case for marriage


FIGURES from the Office of National Statistics reveal that marriage rates in 2017 were the lowest on record.  

The hidden damage to our social fabric caused by our indifference to marriage – and therefore commitment and stability – will continue long after we are free of coronavirus.

Family is where we find our security. Our individual experiences of these long weeks of lockdown will almost certainly depend on how we feel about family life at home.

Those of us who thrive will do so from stable, secure homes. Those of us who struggle will do so because we live with uncertainty, ambiguity and insecurity.

The long-term decline of marriage profoundly matters because marriage is especially strongly associated with the commitment, clarity, security and stability that all of us need now more than ever.

The new ONS figures also show that almost all marriages now take place away from government premises. It is long overdue that the state should revert to its core business of registering marriages and get out of the wedding business altogether.

The current situation highlights the need for this. Having banned weddings, the government has in effect also banned couples from securing all the legal protections that go with marriage (or civil partnership).

The Prime Minister must be more aware of this than most. He has expressed his intent to marry by getting engaged. Yet should Johnson have succumbed to Covid-19 before getting married, his pregnant fiancée would have had no legal rights to his estate to help her. And vice versa of course.

When couples marry, they are making a big statement of intent about their future commitment. The legal rights attached to marriage represent society’s recognition of the importance of this commitment. Not surprisingly, the gap in stability between couples who marry and couples who don’t is wide – and getting wider as divorce rates plunge. 

Marriage remains vital to our future. Our successful emergence from this coronavirus crisis will depend on strong families, which means strong backing for marriage.

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Harry Benson
Harry Benson
Harry Benson is research director for Marriage Foundation and a PhD student of social policy at University of Bristol.

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