It’s worth disassembling marriage into its component parts in order to work out what the law should be about it. For given that Theresa May has just announced that heteros will be allowed to have civil partnerships – as those not hetero have the choice of civil partnerships or marriage – why don’t we simply abolish the intrusion of the state itself into marriage?
Straight couples are to be allowed to enter into civil partnerships instead of getting married, Theresa May reveals to the Evening Standard today.
The Prime Minister said that for the first time ever gay and straight people will have “the same choices in life”.
New laws will end an anomaly where same-sex couples can choose two ways of tying the knot – either getting married or through a civil partnership – but opposite-sex couples are limited to marriage.
This was of course, rather forced upon them. Different arrangements based solely upon sexuality are illegal, of course.
And it will address the “imbalance” that allows same-sex couples to enter a civil partnership or get married – a choice denied to heterosexual couples.
The current system was found in June to be in breach of European law.
The government was due to respond to a supreme court ruling earlier in the summer which found that it was discriminatory to restrict civil partnerships to gay couples. Justices at the UK’s highest court unanimously found in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, declaring that their human rights had been breached.
Yes, our court decided it was in breach of their law. But whatever.
This does provide the opportunity to really get this right.
Pair bonding is pretty usual in human beings. The cause being the incredibly long childhoods – and their helplessness during it – of human children. We don’t therefore pair off in order to raise them, that’s not how evolution works. Those who did pair bond had more children who survived to have children, thus we’re all rather descended from those with a propensity to pair bond.
Every society has had some sort of method of marking such a pair bond. More just because that’s what humans do than anything else.
Which brings us to marriage. Time was when even the Church had very little to do with it, let alone the State. But that changed, what state marriage is really is a model contract. Sure, it’s bound up with varied bits of statutory law and so on but it most certainly started out as a registration of a common law practice.
We do however get that confused with a religious marriage. In the UK the Catholic, CoE, various others including Judaism – and not Islam as yet – can and do incorporate the state marriage into their religious ceremony. That’s the bit when the priest and couple nip off into the vestry. As far as the government is concerned that’s the marriage, the rest is mummery. The priest acting for the state in the registry, presumably for God in the mummery.
There’s an opportunity where therefore for us to properly divorce these concepts, religious and state marriage. Move to just the one model contract overseen by the state. And then have whatever anyone wants as the mummery bit. Why not? After all, this is pretty much what Portugal already does an no one seems to complain in the slightest.