I noticed over the weekend an exchange on Twitter between certain top family lawyers and a certain well-known journalist regarding a column written by the said journalist in a certain national newspaper. Intrigued, I thought I would have a look to see what said journalist had to say.
Where to start?
In the beginning, I suppose. The column is headed thus:
“The war on marriage? It is all about controlling YOUR children”
Hmm. Sounds serious. Who could be waging a war upon marriage? And why do these hideous people want to control YOUR children? I had to read on…
The column then launches into a series of rhetorical questions, including:
“Why does our new power elite hate lifelong marriage so much?”
“Why does the legal arm of that elite, the Supreme Court, hand out what is left of the privileges of marriage to those who won’t get married, as it did with the widowed parents’ allowance on Thursday?”
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. We are referring here to the Supreme Court decision in the McLaughin case last week, which I mentioned here in my weekly review post on Friday. As I explained, the court held that a mother in Northern Ireland should be entitled to widowed parent’s allowance following the death of her partner, despite not being married to him.
It seems that when those with the power to make decisions that affect the rest of us do so in a way with which we do not agree they must be an ‘elite’. Because, of course, ‘elite’ is the new derogatory term for such people, who are obviously out of touch with the rest of society.
But it is not just that. The ‘elite’ have an agenda. We are told that they:
“…hate marriage because it is a fortress of private life. They hate it above all because they can’t control it, because it is the place where the next generation learn how to be distinct, thinking individuals instead of conformist robots.”
Now it becomes clear. The ‘elite’ want to control YOUR children, by giving widowed parent’s allowance to their mothers. Or something.
I’ll (happily) skip over the rest of the article, which becomes ever more bizarre, as the author goes into a frenzy of hatred of his own.
Of more interest is the exchange on Twitter. When it was suggested that it was wrong to describe the McLaughlin decision as a “war on marriage”, rather than simply reflecting modern relationships, said author responded by saying:
“Of course the enemies of marriage would describe such changes in the law in this way. But their spin does not alter the facts. If marriage is not uniquely privileged in law and in esteem, why will people bother to make these onerous commitments?”
OK, time for some real facts:
1. Family lawyers (and others) who support better rights for cohabitants are not the “enemies of marriage”. In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing another lawyer say anything against marriage. Quite the contrary, in fact. Family lawyers are in favour of marriage (and not just because it brings them work when it breaks down!).
2. The fact of the matter is that increasing numbers of couples are choosing to cohabit, rather than marry. The law must always reflect such changes in society.
3. Better rights for cohabitants is simply about fairness. There is no agenda to give cohabitants the same rights as married couples. Marriage will always be “uniquely privileged in law”.
4. And as for the suggestion that there is some sort of ultimate agenda to control children, I am at a loss to find any logic in this whatsoever, either from the point of view of how exactly children are to be controlled or from the point of view of why they are.
Perhaps I am not clever enough to understand. Or perhaps it is just a lot of nonsense, designed to stir up support for the false proposition that marriage is under attack.
Because there is no war on marriage. As I said above, all we are witnessing is a change in society, something that happens all the time, and the response of the system to that change. How the system responds should be a matter for sensible, reasoned, debate, rather than mired in an emotive language such as ‘elites’, ‘war’, ‘hate’, ‘control’ and ‘enemies of marriage’.