This is today’s second post on societal issues.

I identified myself, over 18 months ago, as a “social libertarian” and one of the things I used to explain that inclination was my distaste for the role that marriage plays in our laws and society. I expressed my preference that “the thick, tangled forest of government laws and regulations that focus on ‘marriage’ as the key to our social structure should be burnt down and a new, small, neat orchard of laws that protect individuals in whatever relationships suits their needs (and protects children and the mentally handicapped, etc) should be  put in place.” No one said much about that ~ those who even bothered to read it probably just thunk I’m some sort of cranky old coot.

But Anglo-Australian Peter Thatchell, a British left wing, gay rights and green activist agrees with me in a discourse with the London School of Economics.

You are here at LSE to propose an alternative to marriage,” the LSE interviewer says, “What does this alternative involve?”

Under my proposed civil commitment pact,” Mr Thatchell answers, “a person would be allowed to nominate as their next of kin and beneficiary any ‘significant other’ in their lives. This could be a partner or lover, but could also be a sister, a carer, or a lifelong best friend. Under this system people could select from a menu of rights and responsibilities to create a tailor-made partnership agreement suited to their particular needs. It is not a one-size-fits-all legal framework, like marriage and civil partnerships … [and, he adds] … Many non-sexual friendships are just as sincere, loyal, and enriching as relationships between people in love. So I think these should also have legal recognition. There is no good reason to restrict rights to people in love/sexual relationships.

Question: “For those in a relationship, what would be the benefit of entering such a partnership than getting married?”

Answer: “There is an added virtue in being required to select from a menu of rights and responsibilities. It would mean that partners would have to sit together and negotiate how they would deal with specific issues, such as inheritance, guardianship of any children etc. This issue-by-issue negotiation would force partners to examine their relationship more closely and think through the implications of entering into a partnership agreement. It could lead to better decision-making and a more enduring commitment. With marriage there’s no requirement for partners to discuss their mutual rights and responsibilities – they simply sign a certificate without any need to negotiate the particulars.

There’s a lot more, including the fact that Mr Thatchell believes that his proposed “civil commitment pact” should stand beside marriage, not replace it. I, on the other hand, would still prefer to see the terms “marriage” and “spouse” disappear from the law books along with the notion that “marriage” is anything more than just one form of formality that people us to celebrate their civil commitment contracts.

I appreciate that this is a controversial position and I do not expect many people, especially not many Conservative people, to agree with it, but we, Canadians, are increasingly a multi0-cultural society and it is less and less appropriate that the Judeo-Christian notions of and rules about marriage should be enshrined in our civil (and criminal) laws. People can be in sincere, loyal, enriching and even loving relationships without wishing to or being allowed to marry in the Judeo-Christian tradition; there is no reason why their commitments (and, yes, I can imagine that some might be (or might be wanted to be) plural, it is up to people wiser than I to rule on that sort of thing) should not be every bit as valid as a marriage performed in a garrison chapel (as my first one was) or in a civil registry office (as my second one was).


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