Written evidence from Lawrence Cooke [HAB0054]

i) If the same legal rights are given to those who have freely chosen not to be publicly committed to each other this greatly undermines the status of marriage. If couples want the legal protections of marriage then they should get married. Besides the Government has already provided civil partnerships for those who do not want the lifelong commitment of marriage. There is no need to create a second alternative to marriage.

ii) Marriage has a particular legal status because it promotes stability for society and for the upbringing of children. Marriage is much more stable than cohabitation. By the time they are five years old, 53% of children from cohabiting parents will have seen their parents separate. By comparison only 15% of five year old children from married parents will have experienced the separation / divorce of their parents. So marriage saves society money because family breakdown already costs the public purse over 50 billion per year.

iii) Couples who are married tend to have healthier lifestyles than cohabitees. Married women tend to smoke less and indulge in recreational drug usage far less than cohabitees. Also married men have better heart health, tend to survive cancer better, enjoy better mental health and tend to have happier retirements than cohabitees.

iv) If lots of people really do think that cohabiting couples have the same or nearly identical rights as married couples then this issue should be addressed by running an awareness campaign rather than undermining marriage by enacting a fundamental legal change.