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portcullisWhen I was as a Tax Officer in the 1970s, the law treated a married woman’s income as that of her husband for tax purposes. Separate taxation wasn’t introduced until 1990.

For any year of assessment in which a married woman is living with her husband, they shall be treated for the purposes of this paragraph as one person.

How did we get here? Oh, yes, equality. One of the criticisms of the current same-sex marriage bill is that, regardless of where you stand on the principle, it’s just a very badly drafted bill (the present government not being noted for attention to detail). So, in the spirit of a fearless commitment to the facts, it seemed reasonable to read the bill.

I haven’t actually read it yet, because, whilst searching the Parliamentary web site, I came across another bill that that has some very serious and interesting things to say about both marriage and equality. Meet the Baroness Cox’s Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill which includes the following gems …

 “… discrimination on grounds of sex includes but it not restricted to—

(a)  treating the evidence of a man as worth more than the evidence of a woman, or vice versa.

 (b)  proceeding on the assumption that the division of an estate between male and female children on intestacy must be unequal, or

 (c)  proceeding on the assumption that a woman has fewer property rights than a man, or vice versa”

 and

 “The steps involved in removing or minimising disadvantages …include steps to take account of the fact that those who—

 (a) are married only according to certain religious practices and not according to law,  or

 b) are in a polygamous household,

 may be without legal protection.”

OK, this is a very specific proposal that addresses specific injustices experienced by some women in specific minority communities and is as much about cultural integration and equality before the law as it is about marriage.

Entangled Heart

Entangled Heart (Photo credit: funcrunch)

However, it does paint a picture of marriage as a complex interaction of gender difference, power, children, economic arrangement, rights and responsibilities (albeit a very imbalanced one). And, I would suggest, may provide a better starting point for a nuanced discussion of marriage than the simplistic “when two people love each other” view currently being discussed in other parts of the forest.