Marriage: Union for the future or contract for the present

Publication Details

A new ResPublica Green Paper by Roger Scruton and Phillip Blond

To coincide with the Parliamentary debate on the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, the latest publication from ResPublica, Marriage: Union for the future or contract for the present, criticises the Bill for compromising the meaning of both traditional heterosexual marriage and homosexual partnership.

Written by ResPublica Director Phillip Blond and ResPublica Fellow Professor Roger Scruton, the paper argues that there is far more to ‘marriage’ than just its name and any changes to its definition should not be taken lightly.

Throughout the debates that followed after David Cameron’s announcement in support for same sex marriage in 2011, the value and worth of marriage has been assumed rather than discussed. A meaningful discussion about the value and purpose of the institution of marriage itself has not taken place. Beyond the specifics of the Government’s proposals, this paper asks: What is marriage, and why does it matter?

The publication warns that one definition of marriage will supplant and effectively erode another, and will impose norms that do not cohere with the core purpose and role of conjugal marriage.

Conjugal marriage is first and foremost about the creation and care of children. It is about creating a public institution that celebrates and secures the right environment whereby children enter into the world, receiving from their parents the social capital that their parents in turn inherited. Traditional conjugal marriage is now under threat from a weaker conception of marriage that promotes a partnership that does not extend beyond the self-interests of the couple.

The publication argues that marriage will be seriously undermined if it is redefined so that children and the creation of new life will no longer be part of it, and urges the Government to maintain the present definition of marriage.

The publication also acknowledges that civil partnerships, while offering every right that marriage presently offers, lack a public recognition and celebration. It urges the Church to take a lead in endorsing and celebrating same sex relationships and recommends that churches offer more than a civil partnership – a civil union – for those who wish to pursue a religious celebration and blessing. This would permit same sex couples to commit to a lifelong union on a religious basis determined by their own homosexual relationships, rather than, as paradoxically would be the case with same sex marriage, one defined by the relations between heterosexual couples.

This publication is part of a multi-output ‘Strategic Consultation on Marriage’, which sets out to explore the fundamental meaning and purpose of marriage and the family.

  • Professor Roger Scruton

    Visiting Professor at University of St Andrews and University of Oxford

    Roger Scruton is an adjunct scholar of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC. Prior to that he was a research professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. He is a fellow of Blackfriars Hall in Oxford and...

    Professor Roger Scruton
  • Phillip Blond


    Phillip is an internationally recognised political thinker and social and economic commentator. He bridges the gap between politics and practice, offering strategic consultation and policy formation to governments, businesses and organisations across the world. He founded ResPublica in 2009 and...

    Phillip Blond