Supreme Court judge hails the ‘blended family’

Family|Marriage|News|February 20th 2014

‘Blended’ families, featuring step-parents and children from different relationships, may have unexpected benefits, a Supreme Court justice has declared.

Speaking in Belfast at a meeting of the Northern Ireland Medico-Legal Society earlier this week, Lord Wilson of Culworth declared:

“Death has always enabled the surviving spouse to remarry but the availability of divorce precipitates many more remarriages and in their wake come many more step-families and relationships of the half-blood. So the blended family now often replaces the nuclear family.”

The former Lord Justice of Appeal added:

“I am not convinced that it is a bad thing: might it not be healthier for children to learn at a very early age to cope with relationships in a mixed and wider family group?”

In his lecture, Lord Wilson explores the concept of entitlement to marriage and the various social restrictions which have been placed on marriage over the centuries, including the gender of the couples wishing to wed.

On the subject of same sex marriage, the peer hailed the effects of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“When, like me, you reflect on the benefits and, yes of course, also on certain drawbacks of our having incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into our law in 1998 and of our then having committed ourselves to affording considerable respect to the interpretation of Convention rights favoured by the court in Strasbourg, please do not forget the dramatic improvement in the rights of minority groups, such as gay and trans-gender people, which the Convention, as interpreted in Strasbourg, has achieved and which, over 20 years, has raised our life together in this Kingdom to a higher level of mutual respect..”

He continued:

“Wisely, however, the Strasbourg court has stopped short of concluding that the Convention requires states to allow same sex people to adopt or to get married. It concedes that such is a matter for each state to choose for itself, provided always that the choice made is compatible with people’s right not to suffer discrimination in the enjoyment of their family life.”

Lord Wilson points out that

“Same sex marriage is not a novel concept. It was allowed in ancient Egypt and in Republican Rome although it became outlawed under the  Roman Empire. Then, for the next 1500 years, Christian doctrine (and I say this as a committed member of the Church of England) cast an irrational opprobrium upon all sexual acts other than procreative ones. In my view, the malign effects of the doctrine leave a residue even today. “

He added:

“In the light of the whole direction of my address, you will understand why, at any rate, I favour same sex marriage. I accept that a number of same sex couples do not welcome, or at least do not propose to exercise, a right to marry. A few of them seem even to enjoy the sensation of being outside the mainstream of society and do not wish to feel swept into it. Mae West once said ‘marriage is a fine institution but I ain’t ready for an institution.’ ”

Gay marriage is a positive force which will strengthen rather than weaken the institution of marriage he asserts.

“In our society marriage will surely never again be that all-consuming imperative aspiration which strikes us as so extraordinary when we read our great 19th century novels. But it is a structure which I definitely would not jettison. Far from destroying marriage, I think that to allow same sex couples into it strengthens it; but in my view the most important benefit of same sex marriage is the symbol that it holds up to the heterosexual community, not forgetting teenagers apprehensively trying to make sense of their own emerging sexuality, that each of the two types of intimate adult love is as valid as the other. The availability of marriage properly dignifies same sex love.”

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  1. JamesB says:

    Not least being able to use your ex as a baby-sitter in order to get out from time to time, including the weekends, even as a couple, whereas you wouldn’t be able to do this if you were still married.

  2. Paul says:

    Looks like UK society as a whole is coalescing towards one giant amorphous blob of a patchwork family. Someone’s gotta make the concept work. I expect we’ll all be softened up for it soon when a ban comes in on all those children’s fairy tales which talk of wicked stepmothers or evil stepfathers. You won’t be able to read one of those to your kids soon without the social coming round to assess you as a recidivist. I’m rather surprised that children’s authors haven’t been commissioned already to do a hatchet job on the natural father. Expect some government propaganda sooner or later to tell us all how bad they are.

  3. Marilyn Stowe says:

    I heartily applaud the sentiments of our blog editor Cameron Patterson who wrote this post. I would add that the entire 27 page speech is absolutely marvellous. It vividly describes examples past present here and there of the “elasticity” of marriage and is a tremendous synopsis for an entire book. It was a great read and I urge all our readers to follow suit!

  4. Yvie says:

    The way the law stands at the moment, the biological father could find himself on the outside looking in at the ‘blended family’ whilst the current boyfriend attempts to bring up someone else’s children. The blended family seems reasonable in principle, but only if the law doesn’t prevent the biological father from raising his own children.

  5. JamesB says:

    A lot of childrens books have already disposed of the children’s father. For example, try ‘Harry and the Dinosaur’. Only adults in that book were Mum and Mum’s father.

  6. JamesB says:

    Children’s books that is.

  7. Luke says:

    “‘Blended’ families, featuring step-parents and children from different relationships, may have unexpected benefits, a Supreme Court justice has declared.”

    Well that’s as may be, in fact personally I don’t doubt it, but the downsides are well known and big and they aren’t going anywhere.

    Biologically related parents to the offspring are the most likely to be emotionally, time-wise and financially committed to a child. There will be plenty of individual cases where step parents and even relatives/friends are as well but generally I think this is undeniable.

    When it hits the fan and somebody needs to step up to the plate big time then I think that you will very often find that ‘blended’ family members blend in to the background…

  8. Andrew says:

    My son and my wife’s two brothers’ children were “at home”, safe, relaxed, protected and cherished in any of our three homes. That’s ow it should be and that’s how it can be.

  9. JamesB says:

    I like and very much agree with your last sentence Luke.

  10. Paul says:

    Blood is thicker than water. And what happens to stepdad and stepdaughter when temptation strikes as one wearies of his wife and the other matures and transforms into an attention-seeking Lolita? Seems to me that in that kind of tinderbox situation ample supplies of bromine-laced tea are called for.
    Can we get it on the NHS?

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