The Marriage Tax Allowance will give around £3 per week to married couples while discriminating against cohabiting couples and single parents. But the poorest families such as unemployed parents won’t benefit – and neither will families where both the parents work. Only couples who adhere to the breadwinner and home maker model will receive the allowance. The Don’t Judge My Family campaigners believe Cameron is trying to appease those in his party who aren’t happy about equal marriage. I caught up with them to find out more. (The interview below was a collaborative effort by Lisa Mitchell and the other campaigners).
In an era where homophobia and race discrimination are unacceptable, do you think there’s any excuse for discriminating against cohabiting couples and divorced or single parents?
At Don’t Judge my Family we don’t think so. Love is evident in families of all shapes and sizes and this proposal will not help the 1 in 4 children growing up in single parent households, widowers, victims of domestic abuse or people who simply don’t choose marriage.We have some case studies on our website from families who don’t think the government should be judging them and their families. Advocates of the marriage tax allowance keep mistaking correlation for causality when they tell us that children do better in married families and it is that they are concerned about. The Institute of Fiscal Studies just released a statement on marriage tax allowance that states that parental education and wealth have a much greater impact on kids than whether their parents are married.
Is there a danger that blatant, open Government discrimination against certain family forms will lead to increased stigma against these families, e.g. teen or lone parents who are already stigmatised?
Definitely. By introducing the marriage tax allowance the government are legitimising one sort of family over another. They’d be better off using this money to try and help all families, particularly the most vulnerable who won’t benefit at all from this proposal.
Will this tax allowance help children in poverty?
The simple answer is no. We are working alongside the Child Poverty Action Group amongst others and are concerned at the amount of money being spent on a tax allowance that won’t even touch some of the most vulnerable children and families in our society. You can see the letter we wrote for the Times on this issue, on our website. Children in poverty are being affected by some huge cuts to their support networks, the latest spending review announced another 11.5 billion in cuts, and the government are somehow managing to find half a billion to reward a lifestyle choice. The Institute of Fiscal studies have said that this policy is symbolic and even Tim Loughton, a strong advocate of the policy, has said its less about the impact of the tax allowance and more about the signal it sends.
Is it a form of social engineering/an agenda to push us into marriage and eradicate non married families?
Many of our petition signers have expressed this worry about social engineering, and have told us that they don’t think the government have any role in legitimising one form of relationship over another. To be honest we think the agenda for this policy is mainly to keep the Conservative Party together rather than keeping families together. It’s something that David Cameron is throwing to the right of his party to appease them after some of the issues they’ve been unhappy about recently.
Is it moral or ethical to marry because of money and is it moral for the government to encourage this kind of behaviour instead of encouraging responsible and ethical life decisions?
We’re not sure about moral or ethical but it certainly isn’t very romantic. We’ve had a lot of supporters saying they feel it cheapens they’re relationship because they married for love not money. Don’t Judge My Family certainly don’t think the government should be in the business of encouraging any kind of lifestyle over another when it comes to this issue.
Does marrying for money blur the lines between marriage and sex work?
We don’t think anyone will or indeed should marry for money. Some of our petition signers have expressed concerns over the origins of marriage being in property and whether this proposal is harking back to it. More however have asked why something like £3 a week would incentivise anyone to get married.
How does the allowance affect those who have fled abusive marriages and what message, if any, does it send about domestic violence?
It doesn’t send a hopeful message to those who have fled abusive marriages or other domestic violence survivors. Particularly since domestic violence services have borne the brunt of austerity over the past few years. It’ s sort of like saying, we have no money to support you as a vulnerable woman but if you stay with your husband you can have a cut of this half a billion we’ve put aside to promote marriage. It’s pretty shocking.
What message, if any, does the allowance send about rape survivors who keep their rapist’s babies or men/women whose children were abandoned by ‘deadbeat mums/dads’? Or people whose spouses left them for new partners?
We don’t think the government should be judging any decision made about relationships but particularly not rape survivors. Again, it is just the wrong message to be sending to anyone who is unmarried either by choice or by circumstance, and let’s remember this policy is all about the message. The government should not be advocating one lifestyle choice over another, especially at such a cost. I grew up without my Dad around, and it’s upsetting to hear from those who are supposed to be representing you in parliament that your family lacks something, I can imagine others feel the same.
Do you think the tax allowance discriminates against people who might want to marry but cannot, such as under-18s who can’t legally marry without parental permission and those who can’t afford it? Do you think young and poor families would benefit from the allowance if they were allowed to have it?
I think there are better ways to help younger and poorer families than a tax allowance. From what Don’t Judge My Family have seen this tax break will have no impact, even for the couples who are to receive it. The policy will discriminate against those who can’t get married for financial reasons. Studies show that those who tend to enter into marriage tend to be better off to start with, it goes back to this money not effectively targeting those who might need help the most.
What does the Don’t Judge My Family campaign hope to achieve and how can we support it?
We essentially hope to stop the proposal being entered into law whilst raising awareness of the issue. You can support it by signing our petition over at www.dontjudge.org.uk and by engaging with the debate on social media
What the Marriage Tax Allowance means for us
This is exactly the kind of social engineering which Charles Murray, A H Halsey and other early 90s IEA (Institute of Economic Affairs) right-wing “academics” called for. They believed social engineering in favour of marriage would eventually destroy lone mother families. These now discredited “academics” hoped for this destruction because they believed lone mothers and their children are an “underclass”. David Popenoe, Murray, Halsey, Patricia Morgan and Dennis and Erdos believed that lone mothers’ daughters are sluts and their sons are criminals and deadbeat dads or “idle thieving bastards” as Murray puts it. David Cameron has resurrected the long-debunked myths around non married parents to glorify marriage. The only difference is that he’s not openly attacking female lone parents and has kept the discrimination gender neutral. But the breadwinner-home maker model he supports looks suspiciously sexist as it’ll mostly be female parents who are home makers as it’s seen as more acceptable for mothers to be home makers than fathers.
Existing marriage laws problematise the Allowance: a 14 year old couple with a child will likely be poor and benefit the most from the Allowance but because the marriage age is 16 they can’t marry so won’t benefit. The same goes for 17 year olds whose parents won’t permit them to marry. The Allowance discriminates against polyamorous parents as only the two who are married will be able to have the Allowance. But it doesn’t discriminate against swingers. The poorest parents are the unemployed and disabled but if both parents are unemployed or disabled they won’t be entitled, meaning that the Allowance fails to help those who would benefit most. The Don’t Judge My Family campaign raise the point that most beneficiaries will have grown up children.
This issue also begs the question if why the taxpayer should subsidise others’ lifestyle choices and whether effectively penalising mothers for working while the DWP forces disabled people into work and makes jobseekers’ lives a living hell is a logical move.
This Allowance is a waste of half a billion pounds and is an exercise in discrimination and marriage supremacy. In Britain discrimination is illegal and therefore shouldn’t be encouraged by government. The risk of already stigmatised families being subjected to increased stigma is very real.