In 2015, the Commission published a Getting Married: A Scoping Paper, outlining a range of problems with the law which governs how and where people can marry, which it says is outdated, fails to meet the needs of modern couples and is too restrictive for “a modern Britain” (I think that’s a typo for England and Wales). The Commission argued in the Scoping Paper [2.103] that society had changed since 1836 and that it could no longer be assumed that “the vast majority of the population any longer had a shared understanding of what makes a marriage and of the formalities with which they need to comply”.
In its press release, the Commission identifies a range of questions that will need to be addressed by a full law reform project and suggests four guiding principles that should underpin a revised law of marriage:
- certainty and simplicity;
- fairness and equality;
- protecting the state’s interest; and
- respecting individuals’ wishes and beliefs.
The Commission and Government must now settle the Terms of Reference for the project.
And not before time, either: I’ve been banging on about this for years. The principal Act is still the Marriage Act 1949: but even when it was in gestation it was consolidation rather than legislation for marriage in England and Wales from first principles – and, subsequently, it has been overlaid by a cat’s cradle of amending legislation. Hopefully, the Commission will now be able to look at marriage law from first principles.