The
Royal wedding is creeping closer and people around the world will be
watching William and Kate make a commitment to each other for life on
April 29th at Westminster Abbey.  Reportedly, it
is to be ‘the most stylish event of the century’ and rumours are rife
as to whether the lovely Kate will wear a tiara, who designed her
wedding gown, and how she will style her much photographed hair.

However, one thing is certain.  The Archbishop of Canterbury will open their
wedding ceremony by declaring that marriage is
‘an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s
innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ
and his Church’.  Taking their vows from the Anglican Book of Common
Prayer, William and Kate will promise to have and to hold from this day
forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in
sickness and in health.  They will vow to love and to cherish each other
till they are parted by death, according to God’s holy ordinance.

And we around the world will watch and celebrate these promises. Why?  Some are curious.  Some are royalists.  Others love to see high fashion.  But do we value and celebrate the institution of their marriage?  Less and less people in Britain are getting married and, strikingly, 46 per cent of children are now born outside marriage.  That’s
a large proportion of children born outside the security of the loving
and committed family unit that marriage provides, and it could well have
a significant effect on the well-being, emotional and otherwise, of
future generations.

According to The Telegraph “Marriage desperately needs a Royal Boost”.  Jill Kirby reports that:

The absence of the
marriage ceremony makes a profound difference to the survival of
couples’ relationships. The CSJ estimates that children born today have
only a 50 per cent chance of reaching the age of 16 in an intact
household. The main source of this breakdown is not divorce but fragile
cohabitation. This parental separation is hard for children to cope with
and the increasing rate of family breakdown harms a child’s prospects,
making it much more likely that they will fail at school, start using
drugs and struggle to get jobs.

She also questions whether Britain’s tax system needs to better support the family.  A
review of comparative taxation across OECD countries recently showed
that in Britain one-earner middle-income families pay 20 per cent more
tax than the EU average, largely because of a lack of family-based
allowances.


Most
European countries provide support for marriage or long-term
cohabitation through their tax systems, with a range of options from
income-splitting to homecare allowances, ensuring that families bear
less of the nation’s tax burden while they have children to look after.
These allowances remain popular and the trend shows no sign of abating.
In Hungary, for example, the Right-leaning Fidesz party, recently
elected on a set of conservative pledges including the strengthening of
marriage, has just announced a proposal to give families an extra vote
to cast on behalf of their young children. 
 
While
some argue that policies such as income splitting which allow families
to develop as stronger units are economically unrealistic, the financial
benefits that come from reducing crime (children from broken homes are
more likely to be our future criminals), family court costs (as
taxpayers we subsidise all these divorces and custody battles!), and
even health costs (my friend who works as an emergency department doctor
in a public hospital recently commented that over half the children
that she sees are sick from something they caught at a childcare centre)
are hard to measure but no doubt significant. 

Allowing
parents with children an extra vote seems a bold move, but it would
certainly give a louder voice to families and governments an incentive
to develop family friendly policies.  It will be interesting to see if the legislation goes through in Hungary.  The
country’s new constitution also includes articles that protect the life
of a foetus “from conception” and preserves “the institution of
marriage between man and woman”.

As for Wills and Kate, I’m sure we will
continue to enthusiastically follow their marriage and hope that their
family unit will be strong and their marriage vows truly for life.

Shannon Buckley

After practising law for the last four years, most recently as a junior barrister, <strong>Shannon Buckley</strong> has decided to complete the graduate diploma in secondary education this year to become...