Written evidence from Mr M Looney [HAB0282]


Your recent call for evidence in respect of The Rights of Cohabiting Partners concerns me greatly.  Whilst holding nothing personal against any individual cohabitee the approach that is proposed to legalise the rights of cohabiting partners seems to me to be a step of undermining marriage.  Marriage is that publicly expressed lifelong commitment which gives stability to family life and is thus underpinned and supported by the legal rights and benefits that go with it.  To give those same rights and benefits to cohabiting couples just undermines the commitment element that is not simply the basis marriage expressed in the vows, but actually is the basis on which any relationship works. Therefore I am not in favour of giving cohabiting couples the same rights as married couples.  Just because something is fast growing does not by definition mean that it should be encouraged and supported. Covid was fast growing! For example I have read that by the time they have turned five, 53% of children of cohabiting parents will have experienced their parents’ separation; for five year olds with married parents this is only 15%.  Giving legal rights to cohabitees would encourage a family structure that is not as stable as marriage.  I would prefer to see the benefits of marriage promoted and supported and people encouraged to see marriage as a benefit to building a strong and stable society.  If people are cohabiting because it gives them an easy opt out of the relationship if they so wish, then this type of family structure should not be encouraged as a basis for society.  However if people are cohabiting because they want to get married but there are barriers preventing this then research should be looking into these barriers and seeing what might be done to encourage more cohabitees to be able to get married.  Again societal perceptions relating to the fact that cohabitees have the same rights, as for example married couples, could be addressed in an appropriate information campaign rather than changing the law and downgrading marriage in the process.


July 2021