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Judge launches body to back marriage and prevent splits

03 May 2012

by Ed Thornton

Family man: Sir Paul Coleridge launches the Marriage Foundation, at Middle Temple Hall, London, on Tuesday evening BALINT KINTSES/MARRIAGE FOUNDATION

Family man: Sir Paul Coleridge launches the Marriage Foundation, at Middle Temple Hall, London, on Tuesday evening BALINT KINTSES/MARRIAGE FOUNDATION

A High Court judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, launched a foundation this week to “cham­pion” marriage as the “gold standard”, and to tackle the breakdown of family life.

At the launch of the Marriage Foundation, held on Tuesday even­ing at Middle Temple Hall, in Lon­don, Sir Paul, who sits in the Family Division, said that he had seen first-hand “the awful pain and suffering attendant on splitting up families.

“The fundamental concern which drives the establishment of this foundation is in relation to family breakdown and its destructive effects, particularly on the lives of children. We aim to reduce the number of children caught up in the family-justice system and the misery which they experience and which we see so often.”

Sir Paul said that the foundation would not be campaigning on the question of same-sex marriage, but focusing instead on the issue of family breakdown.

The foundation’s website (www.marriagefoundation.org.uk) would be a “one-stop shop . . . pro­moting marriage and enabling easy access to marriage support and enhancing services”, he said. The foundation would “have a pro-active engagement in public debates, which will be informed by original research which we intend to com­mission”. It also planned to “develop and promote a practical programme for young people”.

Sir Paul continued: “They may lack role-models and come to believe that marriage is not for ‘people like us’, or mistakenly believe cohabitation is a safer al­terna­tive to marriage. The founda­tion will bring together those with experience of working with young people to devise ways of building better understanding of the nature and benefits of marriage, and how they can be realised.”

The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, said in a speech at the event that “strong and stable families give our children confidence, social skills, educational advantage. . . Anyone who thinks that cohabitation without marriage can have the same effect is, I’m afraid, wrong. . . I don’t think we should take that risk with our chil­dren, who . . . having been brought into this world, deserve us to make that commitment to be there for them as they grow up.”

Marriage letter. The Government’s consultation on same-sex marriage (News, 16 March) was “too narrowly focused”, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, wrote in a pastoral letter to the clergy in his diocese, circulated on Thursday of last week.

The letter, which was also signed by the Bishop of Thetford, Dr Alan Winton, and the Bishop of Lynn, the Rt Revd Jonathan Meyrick, said that the consultation document “speak[s] of civil marriage and religious marriage as if these were two entirely separate concepts”. The Bishops warned that, by speaking of civil marriage and religious mar­riage in this separate way, the Gov­ernment was in danger of forming “an unhealthy and damaging division between civil marriage and marriages solemnized on religious premises”.

The Bishops warned that it was “important to avoid ill-considered and bellicose reactions to the Government’s proposals, and to think through how such reactions are heard by gay people themselves. It is surely to the benefit of the whole of our society if gay people live in faithful, stable and publicly recognised relationships.”

Another response to the gov­ernment consultation, a petition organised by Coalition for Marriage, which opposes the plans to legalise same-sex marriage (News, 24 February), had, by Wednesday, at­tracted 487,000 signatures.

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