In many countries, including the United States and Australia, the law of marriage has now been divorced from its Judeo-Christian heritage and given a secular meaning. Can marriage itself survive this process of secularization? The Article explores the drift away from marriage as the basis for family formation and child-rearing in Europe, North America, and South America, and the weakening of the marriage contract in law. It goes on to examine the laws concerning the solemnization of marriage and the differences (if any) between marriage and other family forms in a number of jurisdictions. These laws are explored by evaluating the options for family formation that are available to a young couple in Amsterdam, London, Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Washington, D.C. The conclusion is that the law governing the entry into (and exit from) marriage is losing much of its coherence and purpose. While marriage will continue to be important to people of faith and in certain cultures, civil marriage will gradually become little more than a means of registration of intimate partnerships. This will occur because the secular State lacks any convincing narrative about what marriage is, and any justification for having a marriage celebrant who represents the authority of the State.
The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.