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Why societies turn towards marriage
ROBERT BROWN poses the question: “What does marriage stand for?” (Letters, February 19).
For most people it would now seem to stand for two people saying in front of family, friends, neighbours and a registrar that they love each other and intend to live together. If that is all it is, one is hard pressed to explain why community leaders for thousands of years have spent so much effort formalising and codifying it.
It is not a matter of tradition. Leaders responsible for the well-being of their community have always attempted to limit the economic cost and social disruption of heterosexual promiscuity. This was the legal response even in cultures where homosexual liaisons were usual. Bringing up children is an expensive, time-consuming business; unmarried mothers are usually a charge on the family and/or the community. The institution of marriage is an attempt to make a man act responsibly, and not to father children then walk out of their life.
There is social benefit, too, in attempting to create a general understanding in the community that the couple stay together and do not create the personal misery and social disturbance, a not-unusual effect of infidelity.
The only social benefit of a commitment to live together by two people of the same sex is that they remain an item and provide mutual care. It is laudable; but not by itself marriage.
Maurice Vassie, Deighton, York.