Matthew Parris: delete ‘marriage’ from the law

Former Tory MP, Matthew Parris, has reacted to the recent debate about redefining marriage, suggesting that the word “marriage” should be completely removed from legal language.

Mr Parris, who is in a civil partnership with David Cameron’s chief speech writer, says he has a “sliver of sympathy” for those who object to the Government commandeering a word.

Writing in his Times column, his radical solution is to remove the word “marriage” altogether from legal language.


The word “marriage” appears 3,258 times in UK legislation, and supporters of traditional marriage say that shouldn’t be undone in a single stroke.

Mr Parris said the meaning of marriage has already been affected by divorce reform and added it is “a bit of an intellectual mess”.

“So here’s my answer: my submission to the commission on ‘gay marriage’ that the Prime Minister has promised. Do as they’ve done in South Africa. Make the partnership that two people of either sex may enter the same in law, regardless of their sex.


“Then remove the word ‘marriage’ altogether from legal language. Amend the statute book. Call it (say) ‘civil union’ (as they do in South Africa). Call the ceremony bilateral amatory pledge trothing, or pledging, or registering or declaring — take your pick.

“Call the union itself what you like: and make this the word that the State uses for the institution that it defines, polices and protects.”

Mr Parris’ comments come ahead of the expected launch of a new Government consultation on how, not whether, marriage should be redefined next month.


Earlier this week a new grassroots campaign group seeking to protect the traditional definition of marriage was launched.

Since its launch on Monday morning the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) has gathered more than 30,000 signatures on its online petition. Sign it here.

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