Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The death of marriage ? If only .....

I know, I know, I should ignore the ravings of Melanie Phillips.
Her latest are on the subject of giving co-habitees rights similar to those who are married:

Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips told the BBC changing the law would undermine marriage.
She said: "This idea that society is changing and therefore the law has to change to keep up with it is wrong, in my view, historically the law has led the progressive dismemberment of marriage by stripping it progressively of meaning.
"And this is but the latest example of that. The law is based on justice; justice requires that you don't get something for nothing. You don't claim rights if you don't enter into obligations."

Hey Mel, you say that as if it is a bad thing!

A number of issues I have with this.

Firstly, why should the law protect marriage? If people want to marry for religious or moral reasons that is fine and their choice, but why should it be given economic and legal support to prop it up.

"You don't claim rights if you don't enter into obligations."
There is a myth that marriage is a commitment and living together is not. I know of many couples who have lived together for many years. Why is this less than a commitment? In some ways, it could be argued it is more; it does not need a legal document to make it difficult to separate, they choose to be together.

I was in a very long relationship where I co-habited. There was commitment and obligations. There was the same emotional and practical support as if we had been married. At different times, we supported each other financially. We had a joint mortgage and shared all the bills. The argument that by living together you can just walk away when there are problems is rubbish. There are often as many practical and financial issues to resolve, including where to live. There is still the emotional investment and wanting to make it work.

Why should I not have had rights? By that, I mean that we could have shared pension rights, that I could have been next of kin and recognised in the same way as someone who marries. A well as the moral arguments, recognising someone as a partner, there are the practical ones. It is in everyone’s interests to have clear legal and financial arrangements.

Of course, there are some who say why not just marry. Personally, I could not go into an arrangement that I fundamentally disagreed with on principle.