Having topped the Private Members’ Bill Ballot, Chris Bryant is talking about introducing a Bill to enable opposite-sex couples to contract civil partnerships.
I very much hope that he will do so.
There is a perfectly reasonable case for civil partnerships to be available to opposite-sex couples. It is not as if those couples would otherwise be getting married.
Civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples would mean that no one would get married unless they very explicitly wanted to be married, in preference to a specific alternative.
That could only strengthen marriage.
For one thing, divorce could be made far more difficult, at least for people who had chosen marriage after this new arrangement had come into force.
After all, if they had not wanted that, then they could always have had a civil partnership instead.
Unmarried opposite-sex partnerships are not some recent innovation. They are this country’s historical norm.
Most legal marriages used to last to the grave, if only because they could not be dissolved.
But everyone who knows the first thing about the subject knows that between the Reformation and the late nineteenth century at the absolute earliest, relatively few people in Britain ever were legally married.
They lived together, they had children, women often took men's names. But there was no marriage certificate, and it was quite normal to have several such arrangements over the course of a lifetime.
When people sought the validation of the State (as much local as national) and of its Established Church, then they really did want that validation. And, of course, they could afford to obtain it.
The near-universality of marriage probably did not last 100 years, and it tellingly collapsed under Margaret Thatcher, when the economic order to which it was integral was dismantled.
The introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships would once again create the space in which the only people who got married were the people who really meant it.
There might not be very many of those on these shores. But there almost, if almost, never have been.
A Bill such as this would have ample scope for amendment, even if I cannot be in Parliament in order to table them, so that I am not struggling to get by on £74,000 while marvelling that such abject poverty did not entitle me to a council house.
Never having needed to be consummated, civil partnerships ought not to be confined to unrelated couples.
Any marrying couple should be entitled to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 with regard to grounds and procedures for divorce, and any religious organisation should be enabled to specify that any marriage that it conducted should be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly.
Statute should specify that the Church of England and the Church in Wales each be such a body unless, respectively, the General Synod and the Governing Body specifically resolved the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses.
There should be similar provision relating to the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.
Entitlement upon divorce should be fixed by Statute at one per cent of the other party’s estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, with no entitlement for the petitioning party unless the other party’s fault were proved.
Am I trying to go back to the 1950s? To which features of the 1950s, exactly? Full employment? Public ownership? The Welfare State?
Council housing? Municipal services? Apprenticeships? Free undergraduate tuition, once other, rather more pressing needs had been met?
All of those things were bound up with things like this. That they have all been eroded or destroyed together has not been a coincidence.
It is not called neoliberalism for nothing.