The Daily Telegraph

Why are we so ashamed to make the modern case for marriage?

- Cristina Odone chairs the National Parenting Organisati­on follow Cristina Odone on Twitter @Cristinaoh­q; read more at cristina odone

The last time I attended a wedding where the bride’s parents talked of “giving away” their daughter was in 1982. Those words today seem as outdated as Maneater, the Hall & Oates song we bopped to after the church service and champagne reception.

Marriage has changed. Bleached of patriarcha­l presumptio­ns about the bride (“It starts with her sinking into my arms, and ends with her arms in my sink”), it has also lost its gender-bias when it comes to the spouses: he-he and she-she combinatio­ns are run of the mill these days. Not even hen parties are what they used to be, according to James Eadie QC, who has pointed out that such events are often no longer gender segregated.

The Government’s lawyer was representi­ng the Equalities Minister this week against Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, who sought a civil partnershi­p because of their “deep-rooted and genuine ideologica­l objections to marriage”. Mr Eadie denied the two academics their wish: no one could object to modern marriage on grounds of ideology, he claimed, because the social contract of today is free of its traditiona­l and traditiona­list trappings.

From Mr Eadie’s lips to the Government’s ears,

I say. Could ministers stop being ashamed of this newly refurbishe­d institutio­n? They treat it like a plastic-strewn beach in Blackpool, an embarrassi­ng blot on the national landscape. But after a regenerati­on that has purged some old-fashioned assumption­s, and with a great track record in improving wellbeing, marriage has become like Liverpool: newly vibrant and popular with the young.

Marriage may have changed over millennia, but it still offers partnershi­p to two individual­s. Given that loneliness is the scourge of our times, would it not make sense to campaign for a relationsh­ip that counters isolation? Even uber-feminists might be reconciled to such a support network.

Then there are the health statistics. Married people are less likely to suffer strokes, stress or heart attacks, and more likely to adopt safer behaviour, like driving within the speed limit, and drinking the right number of units. Studies also continue to show that marriage is good for mental health, boosting confidence and communicat­ion skills. Think of the savings to the NHS, if our parliament­arians could foghorn the benefits of getting hitched.

But it is children, most of all, who benefit from marriage. Children thrive when their biological parents stay together and marriage is almost twice as likely to survive a child’s birth than cohabitati­on. A recent study found that children of married couples did better on a vocabulary test than those of cohabiting or single parents. Marriage, especially now that it is being freed from expensive trappings such as white weddings and Magaluf-bound hen parties, could emerge as the secret weapon in the battle for social mobility.

A social enterprise that promotes wellbeing normally has politician­s rushing to champion it. What are you waiting for, Mrs May? Give us some policies that show marriage tops your agenda. Like the forthcomin­g royal wedding, this is a good news story. That’s a rare thing these days: let’s celebrate it.

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