Please Sir, how do you define marriage?

The Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP

That’s the question we should all be asking of the man in charge of Education in England (and Cornwall), for according to Julie Henry, Education Correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph, HM Secretary of State for the Education, The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, has issued guidance that all Free Schools and Academies must teach the importance of marriage.

The guidance states:

Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, July 2000

Pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children. But the Government recognises that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore pupils should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances.

Free School Model Funding Agreement and Academy Model Funding Agreement, July 2011

“The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure that children at the academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.”

Is the Secretary of State suggesting that children brought up in stable relationships outside marriage are in families which are not a strong and mutually supportive relationship? It certainly appears so. However, perhaps we should not jump to conclusions. It may be the case that Mr Gove is allowing us to treat Civil Partnerships as Marriage, for that is what they are in effect – if not in name (yet).

Outside his reach, of course, are the pupils in Scotland where the Scottish Executive is currently consulting about allowing same-sex marriage. What would happen if a couple were married under such a  law and then moved south of the Border, with children attending one of the Free Schools. Would their children be taught about marriage in the broadest sense or are the Tories (by way of Mr Gove) tightening the concept of marriage to that of heterosexual marriage? I suspect that there will be not a few more battles in Parliament over this matter.

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