Written evidence from Mr John Lazenby [HAB0055]
I am strongly opposed to the idea that anything needs to be done to correct a perceived problem in the lesser rights held by cohabiting partners over Married couples or partners to Civil Partnerships.
Fundamentally, my objections arise from a belief that politicians should promote marriage or civil partnerships, not find new ways to bypass them, because marriage and civil partnership better promote stability for society and for the upbringing of children and therefore greatly benefit both adults and children. The public commitment to Marriage and Civil Partnership have particular legal status and marriage involves long term commitment of the parties. If people freely choose not to make a long term commitment to each other, why should the law treat them the same as married persons? This smacks of the nanny state going overboard unnecessarily to accommodate a tiny minority constituency. Since they always have the alternative choice – to enter marriage or civil partnership – there is no equality issue.
In more detail:
- Marriage/Civil Partnership will be 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, whereas 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.
- 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.
- 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 could 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.