I was surprised to read yesterday that the outgoing Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, was concerned that the Government had "not done enough" to promote the institution of marriage.
He argued "I don’t think the Government has done enough at all. The state has an interest in marriage because of the cost of family breakdown and non-marriage, the last time I looked at it, was estimated at £9 billion a year."
I wasn't surprised that as a religious leader Lord Sacks was concerned about marriage, after all the institution is the bedrock of every religion. However, I was surprised that he was suddenly so concerned about this government's approach to the issue given his deafening silence on the subject of same-sex marriage when it reached the House of Lords, where he is a cross-bencher, earlier this year.
Astonishingly, given his supposed support for the institution of marriage, Lord Sacks decided to completely ignore the Parliamentary debates for the future of the very institution that he says he holds so dear. This was despite his office voicing its opposition to gay couples marrying and controversially even holding civil partnerships when it responded to a government consultation last year.
Given that Lord Sacks says that he is concerned about family breakdowns and the rates of "non-marriage" and its supposed cost of £9bn to the tax payer (wherever that figure got plucked from), you'd think he would want to address the fact that thousands of currently unmarried same-sex couples are raising families.
It also seems odd for Lord Sacks to criticise the inaction of the government because it's not as if David Cameron has been particularly shy about the importance of marriage. Just a few months ago, as Parliament stood on the cusp of passing same-sex marriage into law, he wrote for PinkNews.co.uk: "I think marriage is a wonderful institution; it helps people to commit to each other and it should be available to gay people and lesbians. I am proud of the work this government has done and is doing to allow gay and lesbian couples to have their love for each other recognised in this way." Cameron expended huge amounts of political capital trying and succeeding in redefining the definition of marriage to make it relevant to contemporary society.
This action by the prime minister is in my view more valuable than a £150 tax break for being married, something that I can hardly imagine seeing couples pouring into churches, synagogues and registry offices to benefit from. What Lord Sacks has missed Cameron's actions is that by making marriage relevant to contemporary society, he is strengthening and preserving this important institution and as a supporter of marriage, Lord Sacks should be cheering him on.
Whatever one's views on the rights and wrongs about giving all couples, straight or gay, the right to marry, Cameron's actions have meant the subject has probably been discussed and debated around every dining room table in the land, giving marriage a relevancy that it probably hasn't enjoyed since the 1960s.