The BBC are asking “Why would a straight couple want a civil partnership?” The question comes in the wake of the coming application by Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle to register a civil partnership rather than get married. They say they do not want to get married because “they do not want to be part of an institution from which gay and lesbian people are excluded”, but yet they “want to make a lifetime commitment to each other and they’d like greater legal and financial security than that offered by simply cohabiting”.
On the one hand, their reasons for rejecting marriage are technically false*; on the other hand, they do have a valid underlying point as to the provision of legal and financial security outside marriage.
There are actually two different things in question here:
- The first, legal provision of inheritance and taxation arrangements
- The second, the joining of man and wife as one flesh according to the institution of God.
The legal provision of inheritance and taxation arrangements does not need to be linked to questions of morality, gender, tradition or consanguinity. It is purely a civil administrative matter. Therefore, it should be open to all: married, unmarried, same-gender, opposite-gender, brother-sister, father-son, grandparent-grandson, three-signatories, or even ten signatories. There is no need to import any restrictions from marriage into this civil taxation and inheritance affair.
Why should two elderly sisters, perhaps being widowed or having never married, who live together and share their lives together, be forbidden the benefits they would be permitted were they unrelated? Why shouldn’t an elderly person being cared for full-time by his daughter not be able to benefit from tax benefits that would apply if she were his wife? Why should we deny inheritance and taxation arrangements to a Muslim man’s second wife because the marriage law only recognises one of them? All these problems, and many many more, can be solved by removing the restrictions which were needlessly imported from marriage into the civil partnership.
Marriage:A marriage is defined by God as his joining together of man and wife as one flesh for as long as they both shall live. This is inescapable and immutable. Further, God has set forth various additional restrictions such as the prohibition of certain forms of consanguinity and the requirement of faithful monogamy. Thus, it is a contract concluded not with the state or by the power of the state, but by God and by the power of God. There is no need to join to this institution of God any form of state registration, taxation or inheritance arrangements – nor indeed should the state be involved in registering such marriages as this is the role of the church.
This proposal would see the deregulation of marriage, such that anyone could perform a marriage, but nobody’s marriage would be recorded by the state. Whether one is seen as validly married will be a matter for the church to determine, just as is the case with baptism. Indeed, it is already the case that some forms of marriage are not accepted as valid by some churches – as such the state registration of marriage is already failing. We do not see the need to maintain a government register or license for baptisms – and there is likewise no need to do so for marriage once the tax and inheritance provisions are moved into a separate civil partnership contract.
Those who wish to have such additions to their marriage should be free to sign an additional civil partnership for these benefits. Indeed, seeing that marriage is a religious affair, and civil partnership a state affair, it should be possible to contract a civil partnership with someone other than the person to whom you are married – if it should seem advantageous to do so. We should not discriminate against married people by restricting their use of the civil partnership tax and inheritance contract.
Let us grant freedom to both civil partnerships and marriage, that both are permitted to be what they are designed to be. One a civil taxation and inheritance arrangement (with no reference to relationships or religion), and the other a divine conjoining of man and wife by God (with no reference to the state or the law).
* The institution of marriage does not exclude ‘gay and lesbian people’; rather it is those who consider themselves ‘gay and lesbian people’ who reject the institution. Marriage does not legally require attraction or loving feelings between man and wife, as much as we dearly hope for them; so there is no impediment to ‘gay and lesbian’ people being married, provided they marry someone of the opposite gender. Remember, the word ‘love’ in the marriage vows is a verb not a noun – it is a promise and an obligation, not a statement about your current state of heart.