Written evidence from Mr Graham Steel [HAB0113]
Marriage is a legal commitment, originally between one man and one woman “til death us do part”. The stability of society and families is heavily dependent upon it. Cohabitation is not an official commitment: couples cohabit largely because they do not want the commitment and formality of marriage. Parental separation is far higher for cohabitation than it is for marriage. A commitment to marriage is a commitment to work for a stable household. Those who cohabit and want the benefits of marriage should get married. The Government should not be undermining marriage by making it equivalent to cohabitation without a commitment.
Family breakdown is expensive for society. Commitment to marriage is a commitment not to break the family unit (with some caveats for exceptional circumstances).
The Government should be promoting marriage as a relationship commitment that carries benefits for society. The Government should not undermine marriage by making benefits previously available to married couples also available to cohabiting couples.
Cohabitation is not a commitment: individuals who are cohabiting are legally free to walk away from it at any time. Cohabitation is a non-marital personal relationship – it does not require further definition. Nor should it incur the state benefits of a formal marriage.