…oR HaS iT?
This last week the British Government voted to make marriage legal between gay and lesbian couples. Good on them.
In doing so they have changed the nature of marriage as it stands in British law.
Several religious leaders, Christians and Muslims amongst them, have been critical of the plan, claiming that the Bible or Q’ran claims that marriage is between “a man and a woman.” But British law is not about that, the Marriage Act 1753, and subsequent acts, actually makes illegitimate what my understanding of the Bible would be legitimate. There are no mentions of licences or even ceremonies in the Bible (though plenty of wedding banquets. Could celebrating marriage be more important than whether or not it is registered?)
Before 1753 there were no regulations, a couple could move in together and be regarded as married. The Canon Law of the Church of England (that bans should read before a licence was obtained) were seen as advisory rather than compulsory. The Marriage act changed that, at a stroke making many legitimate marriages illegitimate. The reason for the act, inheritance.
Romance has nothing to do with government legislation. It is not about love or friendship or sex: It’s all about money, who can inherit. Marriage, under the act, did not work it’s way down to the lower levels of society, people who had no property to pass on, for years. They continued to just live together for years.
But I digress.
What has changed is that now the same legal protection of the law, and the right to call themselves married, has been extended to same sex couples. And not before time.
Down at a personal level nothing has changed for heterosexual couples. I am no less married now than I was last week.