Written evidence submitted by Revd. Prof. James H. Grayson [HAB0171]




I write to oppose the bill to extend similar rights to cohabiting couples as to married couples.   I write as both an academic (anthropology) and a minister of religion.

It is unquestioned, as evidenced by various reviews of sociological research conducted over decades[1], that marriage provides for stability in the relationship between a couple, and by extension a stable environment in which children may be raised and nurtured to adulthood.  This is because marriage is a legally recognised institution in which a man and a woman make a vow to each other.  Because each marriage is legally established,  it can only be legally dissolved.  This fact provides individual, familial and social stability. 

The granting of similar legal rights to cohabiting couples would undermine the institution of marriage by blurring the distinction between marriage and cohabitation.   However,  research continually shows that cohabitation is inherently unstable.  For example, over half of children aged five whose parents were cohabitees have experienced parental separation.  A similar figure for married couples whose child has reached age five was 15 per-cent. Family break-down is bad for the couple and has long-term issues for any children within the family.

Also, as a result of the special character of the marital relationship, married couples experience noticeably fewer health and medical problems.  For example,  research has shown that  women have healthier lifestyles with less frequent addiction to smoking or recreational drug use among women, whilst married men experience better cardiovascular health, better survival rates if they have contracted cancer, and lower levels of depression.  These features of a married couple’s lifestyle are the result of the stability of marital commitment.  Cohabitation does not have the formal commitment of each partner to the other; in cohabitation one partner can simply leave. It is even the subconscious knowledge of this fact of the ease of dissolution which makes cohabitation inherently unstable.

Please do not make any change to the law around marriage which blurs or erases the distinctions between it and cohabitation.

June 2021

[1] Patricia Morgan, The Marriage Files: The Purpose, Limits and Fate of Marriage (London: Wilberforce, 2014);  Centre for Social Justice, Family Structure Still Matters (London, 2020).