For those who read my last blog and said – yes but what can the Government do ? Here is a 10-point Action Plan to Affirm Marriage. By implementing a Plan such as this, our political leaders could begin the process of rebuilding a culture that honours our most important social institution.
1) Pass an Affirming Marriage Act. Such legislation would provide the legal basis for public policy initiatives to affirm marriage. It would also provide a clear and explicit commitment from government to recognising the value of marriage as a foundational social institution
2) Implement a national campaign to raise awareness of and promote the benefits of marriage for family life and society as a whole. The campaign would take the wealth of information already available and present it to the community in a non-judgmental and positive way.
3) Establish tax advantages such as income-splitting for married couples, to recognise importance of marriage and the contribution it makes to the economic and social good.
4) Abolish the marriage licence fee.
5) Implement a specific public sector policy target to increase the rate of marriage among young New Zealand couples aged 20 to 30 by 5%pa for the next ten years. The current Government already has targets in areas such as health, education and justice. These have proved successful in encouraging focussed and effective action.
6) Ensure sexuality education that provides information on the importance and benefits of marriage. Our young people need all the facts so they can make informed choices. Current material used by the Family Planning Association does not deal with marriage in any substantive way.
7 ) Include the importance of marriage as a social institution as a dedicated study area in secondary schools social studies curricula.
8) Set criteria for NZ on Air funding to ensure programmes being resourced are not normalising the values and attitudes which undermine marriage. At the same time amend the Broadcasting Act to give a clear direction that respect for the institution of marriage should be a factor in setting broadcasting standards.
9) Reinstate the terms husband and wife on official forms and documents, to make marriage visible again and emphasize its social significance.
10) Provide additional legal privileges to married couples to re-establish the unique legal status of marriage. Our legal system should not treat marriage with the indifference of being just another form of relationship.
The aim of a Plan such as that outlined here is to achieve cultural change over a period of time. No single initiative will do this. It will take a range of policy actions in multiple areas all aimed at sending the same marriage-affirming message. Over time we can rebuild a marriage-honouring and family-friendly culture. A culture that the evidence shows will lead to far more New Zealand children being raised in loving and secure environments, rather than being at-risk and vulnerable.
No doubt there are many other policy initiatives that could be also implemented. All it will take is some focused and creative thinking, and the political will. There is plenty that can be done – if we really want to.
Ewen McQueen September 2013