Published: 26 February 2014
In a speech to the Medico-Legal Society in Northern Ireland, Supreme Court Judge Lord Wilson has stated that he believes the traditional nuclear family is in decline and that we live in a world where "blended families" are the norm - but thinks this is actually a good thing, as having a wider and more diverse family made up of half-siblings and step-parents may actually provide a more stable and healthier environment for a child.
"Death has always enabled the surviving spouse to remarry but the availability of divorce precipitates many more remarriages and in their wake come many more step-families and relationships of the half-blood," Lord Wilson, 68, said.
"So the blended family now often replaces the nuclear family.
"I am not convinced that it is a bad thing: might it not be healthier for children to learn at a very early age to cope with relationships in a mixed and wider family group?"
He also backed the new same sex marriage law because he believed it will strengthen the institution of marriage and that it is simply "not good enough" to dismiss the idea just because the traditional act of marriage has taken place between men and women.
"Far from destroying marriage, I think that to allow same sex couples into it strengthens it; but in my view the most important benefit of same sex marriage is the symbol that it holds to the heterosexual community ... that each of the two types of intimate adult love is as valid as the other.
"The availability of marriage properly dignifies same sex love."
Lord Wilson also stated that he thought that the concept of marriage was "elastic" and that the act of marriage is viewed very differently in many cultures and religions across the globe. For example, Polygamy, derived from Greek culture, is a marriage that includes more than two partners and whilst it is not acceptable in Western Culture, it is socially acceptable and a "deeply rooted facet of marriage in other respected cultures".
Likewise, it is illegal to marry a first cousin in most parts of the world, however Lord Wilson added that it is "deeply rooted in the culture of our Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities", making it inconceivable to be banned in Britain.
It was also highlighted that Sudan, China and France allows posthumous marriage (a marriage in which one of the participating members is deceased), with roughly 20 taking place each year and that in Australia, it is legal for a woman to marry her uncle. Lord Wilson highlighted the cultural differences where marriage is concerned and summarised, " It seems bizarre but, if it really helps the broken-hearted, we have at least to ask, why not?"
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