The Law Commission in the UK is proposing that non married couples get the same legal rights as those couples who are married. Predictably this has led to Conservative fury that this threatens the very basis of marriage - it does no such thing. Marriage is a venerable instituion that has been around for many hundreds of years and I see nothing in these proposals that threaten it. I think Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian is bang on the money regarding this. Just because couple X now have rights it doesn't mean my marriage to my wife is any less special nor does it mean that it has less status in society. I don't know what Rightwing types think my reaction should be? Should I look at couple X and think 'Fuck, now that their relationship is now recognised by law I wish I'd never got bloody married. All that money. The family dramas. The bad music at the wedding reception. All in bloody vain. What was the point!' I suggest that if I did feel that then I probably shouldn't have got married in the first place.
Who are these people anyway who marry for legal reasons? I married my wife because I am deeply in love with her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Other people may not choose to get married but have the same feelings towards their partners. People express themselves in different ways. Viewing marriage in a purely legalistic, technocratic, moralistic manner distorts the picture in my opinion. The potential legal rights we could enjoy as a married couple did not enter my head when I, very romantically, proposed to my wife in Pizza Express. Marriage is a wonderful thing but so is a defacto relationship that has lasted the distance. If you view marriage purely as a means to an end to gain rights in society, then yes the marriage rate may fall. However, I am not sure that many people get married for that reason. It's pretty impossible to explain why people marry, maybe it's because it's the 'done thing' but more importantly it's a deeply emotional decision and one that isn't going to be effected by John and Simone down the road, in a defacto relationship, being given legal recognition.