Written evidence from Miss Elizabeth Snell [HAB0294]

I make this submission as a Christian believing that marriage was instituted by God and that it is a lifelong commitment. By and large our society unfortunately no longer recognizes Christian values, but there is much evidence of the beneficial effects of marriage, even given the current high divorce rate. Destroying the differences in financial arrangements between married and cohabiting couples will undermine these effects in society.

Primarily marriage brings greater stability to a relationship. A colleague of mine who was not in any way religious remarked after her church wedding that making the vows in front of a congregation of friends and family had made her take them much more seriously, and I believe she is not alone.

In addition to recognizing the responsibilities taken on by getting married, people can also be led to understand that they have more rights under the present legislation if they are married. Some years ago a TV documentary on the subject resulted in more than one couple of my friends getting married. This should of course not be the main reason for marrying, but it can lead people to accept the responsibilities which go with marriage.

It is fundamental for the development of children that their parents should be in a stable relationship; even young people on the verge of adulthood can be profoundly distressed when parents split up. This happens in the case of married couples too, unfortunately, but statistics show that more than 50% of the children of cohabitees will experience the breakdown of their parents’ relationship before they are 5, whereas the figure for the children of married couples is only 15%.

The financial burden on society of family breakdown is £50 billion per year. It seems obvious that to take steps to undermine marriage, an institution which helps family stability, makes no sense even in economic terms.

If the proposed changes were made, there would be the difficulty of defining exactly what constituted a cohabiting couple. How long would they have had to have lived together? This would result in much confusion, whereas now the difference between marriage and cohabitation is plain to all. If cohabitees wish to enjoy the rights which are presently enjoyed by married couples, they can decide to marry. If people did this with a right consideration of the permanence of the vows they are making, society would be greatly improved.

July 2021