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We need incentives to beef up marriage, not water it down


Marriage looks set for its ‘biggest shake-up in 200 years’ as the Government launches a review into giving heterosexual couples the right to enter civil partnerships.

Other changes would include entering the name and occupation of the bride’s mother on the marriage certificate, as well as her father. More controversially, couples would not receive a marriage certificate on their wedding day and would no longer sign the marriage register because a single electronic register will replace the current system of registers being held in churches. The disappearance of these age-old traditions is likely to cause consternation and disappointment to couples and their wedding guests.

The main driver for the introduction of heterosexual civil partnerships is the ‘equality’ case brought by one couple because they were excluded from an arrangement offered solely to same-sex couples; but even though same-sex civil partnerships offered the same legal benefits as marriage, significantly, these declined with the introduction of ‘marriage equality’ – ironically, championed by equality campaigners demanding equality of recognition. Now, apparently, civil partnerships must be offered on an equal basis to all heterosexuals because a tiny number want the benefits of marriage without being married.

Civil partners will be married in all but name, but it is the name that is the most important thing; and few women apart from ideologically committed equalitarians would wish to forgo the ‘big day’ for the sake of theoretical equality.

Tory MP Tim Loughton, champion of marriage ‘reform’, maintains: ‘We need to recognise that our society is changing and we need to adapt in order to promote family stability – in whatever form – to provide a continuum that gives children the best and most stable start in life.’ This is certainly something that is badly needed not only now, but in the future, to avoid the tragedy of millions of lonely old people – but it is doomed to failure. Women may be motivated to marry by the thought of the ‘big day’, but they still have to wait for someone to ask them, and experience has shown that the financial perks that used to be provided for married couples worked better as an incentive for men. An expensive ‘big day’ with no financial compensation in the tax and benefits system will no more encourage men to ‘civilly partner’ than it would encourage them to marry.

Marriage is not only a useful welfare measure for men, women and children, it makes sound economic sense for whole societies. But successive governments, seemingly in thrall to the Marxist idea that marriage is ‘outdated’ and even oppressive, have become convinced that it is a costly, embarrassing encumbrance for all concerned and must be eradicated.

Thus we embark on yet another ‘consultation’ with predetermined outcomes, asking the public whether the introduction of heterosexual civil partnerships will affect ‘other areas of legislation such as divorce law’. They may well get a response from some aggrieved person in a ‘multiple marriage’ who will demand the right to polygamy to avoid the problem of serial marriage and divorce. After all, Mr Loughton supports marriage ‘in whatever form’.

But even if no one takes the civil partnership idea any further, it is bound to affect divorce, since it will serve to trivialise marriage further. Allowing weddings to take place practically anywhere was the first step in this process, but even before this, progressively easier divorce was destined to make this most vital vow less important than a contract for car hire purchase. Coincidentally, it comes as the case is being made for couples to be able to divorce online; it can only be a matter of time before the first online wedding.

It can be safely predicted that while governing elites continue to enjoy the very real fruits of marriage, they will entertain the hope that lesser mortals will settle for something far less in terms of actual concrete benefits – something that will be far from equal, seen as more of a ‘marriage of convenience’ for those at the bottom by those at the top of society.

Signing the marriage register and receiving a marriage certificate are visible signs of an unseen commitment to another person – and to children yet unborn – serving to emphasise that marriage is not just a hope or aspiration, but offers concrete benefits to individuals and families, binding together one man and one woman as the very foundation of society. In contrast, ‘marriage-lite’ would be something far less substantial than true marriage, most likely leading to some very uncivil partnerships that would quite quickly float away.

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Ann Farmer
Ann Farmer
Ann Farmer is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Movement (Catholic University of America, 2008).

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