Written evidence from Ruggiero [HAB0035]
19Ac17 Proposed Cohabitees’ Rights That Will Attack Marriage 19 June 2021
Parliament has far more important issues to address e.g. the poverty of children
The public commitment of marriage promotes stability for society and for the upbringing of children. That’s why marriage has particular legal status. It greatly benefits adults and children, and should be promoted.
Marriage is undermined if the same legal rights are given to those who have freely chosen not to be publicly committed to each other.
Cohabitation is much more unstable than marriage. By the time they turn five, 53% of children of cohabiting parents will have experienced their parents’ separation; for five-year-olds with married parents, this is 15%.
Giving legal rights to cohabitees will encourage cohabitation, which is inherently unstable and so will escalate more family breakdown in society – already costing the public purse over £50bn each year.
If couples want the legal protections of marriage, they can get married. Parliament has also made civil partnerships available for all couples which includes no life-long commitment. Creating a second alternative to marriage is completely unnecessary and will profoundly undermine marriage.
Most of the rights attached to marriage flow naturally from the lifelong commitment. For example, since a couple have committed to one another until death separates them, the law automatically provides for when such a death occurs. This does not apply to those who have not made this commitment, nor should it.
If it’s true there is a widespread perception that people think cohabiting couples have similar or identical rights to those who are married then there should be an awareness-raising campaign. Not a fundamental legal change which would undermine marriage.
Married couples report healthier lifestyles and better health outcomes, with smoking and recreational drug usage much less common among married women than cohabitees. Married men have better cardiovascular health, better cancer survival rates, lower risk of depression and greater satisfaction in retirement.
The difficulties experienced by cohabiting couples are being overstated and can already be addressed by other means. Inheritance concerns can be arranged through a will, for example.
It’s unclear how the plans would avoid giving housemates rights to one another’s property, and how it would distinguish between lodgers and partners. Marriage makes these key distinctions clear in law.
Cohabiting couples have freely chosen not to marry. Extending the financial rights of marriage to cohabiting couples is akin to forcing those couples to be married, but without first making the express, public commitment to one another that is integral to making marriage work.