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British House of Commons approves same sex marriage

By OnePlusOne, 06 February 2013 Marriage

Over the last 40 years, OnePlusOne has witnessed many significant changes in how people manage their relationships. Work life balance, gender roles, IVF, father involvement, the role of grandparents and the growth of stepfamilies. The number of couples cohabiting now outnumber married couples, the concept of ‘living in sin’ is no more, even divorce doesn’t carry the stigma it once did, and blended families are commonplace.

Marriage may be in decline but is still an important aspiration for many people – as are the other various rituals and celebrations that allow families to mark important life events. Today’s couples may have found new ways to live together and manage domestic life but they still want formal ways in which to celebrate commitment.

The current debate around same sex marriage is a heated one; there are those that say it will be a good thing as marriage encourages commitment and stability and that these benefits should not be denied to same sex couples. Then there are those that are against and say any change would redefine the nature of marriage and therefore weaken the institution as a whole.

Strong relationships are important for individuals, families and society. There is social capital to be gained from enabling people to strengthen their relationship by making a commitment to one another. Being in a committed relationship is important because it gives people a sense of belonging. People value having someone who is always there for them; on their side; someone to come home to; someone they can rely on and it is the traditional marriage vows which articulate that expectation. For some same sex couples, as with heterosexual couples, being able to make a public commitment through marriage is an important transition in their relationship.

Despite changing times, rituals and ceremonies such as weddings are hugely important in terms of strengthening relationships; getting married has value because it is a very public acknowledgement of commitment between two people. Evidence shows that getting married strengthens relationships; the very act of standing up in front of friends and family and promising your long term commitment to another person is very powerful. The essence of marriage is in that it is not simply a declaration of an ‘existing’ state of affairs that ‘we are in love now’ but one that articulates a future ‘I will continue to love you through sickness and health, for better for worse.’

The 5th of February 2013 was a historic day for defining marriage as 400 MPs voted to legalise marriage between same sex couples. The debate has been a contentious one, at times ill-informed and ugly and at times illuminating and thoughtful. There may still be many arguments ahead but one thing is for sure, this debate has triggered many of us to think about what marriage means as a concept, as a word and as an aspiration.

You can find key facts on same sex marriage by clicking here and you may also find it useful to read the Policy Exchange’s report ‘What’s in a Name? Is there a case for equal marriage?’  This report adopts an evidence-based analysis of the arguments around marriage equality to consider whether there is a compelling argument to reform the law. It pursues a reasoned analysis of the equal marriage concept and its practical implications and evaluates the arguments on both sides of the divide. It also explores the experience of other countries where marriage equality is already a reality.

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