Written evidence from Rev Andrew Petit [HAB0041]
The introduction states that cohabitation is rapidly growing in this country. The government needs to realise that this is a disastrous trend for the stability of families and societies.
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%. Is this really a trend that the government wants to encourage?
Giving legal rights to cohabitees will encourage cohabitation, which is inherently unstable because it fails to involve any kind of commitment to the relationship, 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 encourage them to get married. Parliament has already made civil partnerships available for all couples which include no life-long commitment. Creating a second alternative to marriage is completely unnecessary and will encourage the profound undermining of marriage, which all the statistics and surveys show is a bedrock of stable family life and a stable society.
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 can already be addressed by other means. Inheritance concerns can be arranged through a simple will, for example.
Finally it is unclear how the plans would avoid giving housemates rights to one another’s property, and how it would distinguish between lodgers and partners. By contrast, marriage makes these key distinctions clear in law.