From the Theory of the New Family to Autonomous Civil Unions
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As a socio legal philosopher, I had long observed a revolution in the perception of the couple and the family. The desire to understand the emergence of a new form of partnership inspired me to study the history and philosophy of the family. My investigations into the evolution of couple and family behavior over time revealed a process of assertion of individual sovereignty, which was expressed in the growing reluctance to choose traditional forms of marriage, such as a religious wedding or civil marriage, and/or a preference to live in a union without a formal marriage license. This development, in my view, is an expression of the desire for privacy and sovereign choice of both partner and form of partnership. The trend embodies various statements such like, “I choose who I love”, “I choose who to create a family with”and I should be able to “choose how my family is formed.”
Descartes’ statement, ‘I think, therefore, I am’, from his Discourse on the Method, published in 1637, shattered the religious paradigm that had dominated human existence up until then. With the dawn of the Enlightenment, the most dramatic philosophical process in 1,000 years took place. Descartes’ statement reverberated through history as philosophers began to question traditional institutions, customs, and morals, and reason was advocated as a source of legitimacy and authority. Nietzsche’s ‘Will to Power’ and Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ were offered as alternatives to divine authority as the force driving humans. This process essentially transformed the supreme and sole authority of the universe from god to the Individual. In god’s wake, the individual made his appearance onto the stage of history.
The inevitable conclusion that the individual is the center of the universe triggered a period of radical upheaval. A series of political revolutions, starting with the French Revolution, swept over Europe. The absolute monarchies that had ruled European kingdoms for centuries capitulated to bloody revolution and the will of the masses. Society underwent a dramatic transformation as feudal, aristocratic, and religious privileges were delegitimized, and the values of hierarchy and tradition succumbed to new Enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights. Freedom of expression, conscience, congregation, voting and property were eventually guaranteed to white men, and later to women and minorities. Yet, the institution of the family was excluded from this process of democratisation, and family was relinquished to the religious domain without being endowed with the civil liberties guaranteed to all other spheres of life.
Although faith in God’s magnitude and the presence of God continues to exist the faith in the one and only God underwent a profound crisis. This crisis yielded the secularism and the complete atheism that is focused on the denial of the mere existence of the Lord. This denial has led to an extreme change is the lifestyle of human beings, and they learned to believe in themselves more, in their centrality, and their abilities. During the same period, human beings became more available for new occupations; they decreased the conductance of religious rituals and religious commandments, and increased the engagement with themselves and their personal nurturing, and the shaping of their rights and liberties. That is the Individual Revolution.
By the 18th century, mass resistance to religious intervention in family life became apparent, and many people ceased marrying in church. The Netherlands was the first nation to respond to this problem by introducing civil marriage. Civil marriage offered a secular alternative for those who preferred State authority to religious authority over their union.
For over two centuries, civil and religious marriage co-existed as parallel and even overlapping authorities for people to choose from according to their conscience. Yet while religion has loosened its grip over humanity, even today, the religious establishment holds a vested interest in controlling family life.
In my mind civil marriage is the antithesis of individualism. Civil marriage is simply a secular version of religious marriage, with the state replacing the church as religious institutions. I argue that individuals should take the next step towards individual empowerment and sovereignty, and take the authority over family life into their own hands, and not the state’s.
Channeling the power of these developments, I am hoping to inaugurate the next revolution in personal sovereignty. In recent decades, many people have realized that they themselves and not the state should hold the authority over their family life,. Civil marriage has begun to lose its force, and is being replaced by cohabitation and common law marriage.
Nowadays, the new generation is more independent and opinionated and does not blindly accept the traditional systems of marriage. Yet, the younger generation does not seek to change the structure of the family unit, nor does it fundamentally really challenge monogamy. Motivated by a commitment to individualism, the younger generation seeks independence in choosing his or her form of partnership, and wishes to choose the legal system in which their partnership will be recognized. Personal choice is the driving force today, and I argue, it must determine the legal validity of the relationship.
I see the strongest expression of human rights in the family as choosing common-law relationships over legal marriage. I promote cohabitation as a conscious decision couple make to live together as a family without official permission or a marriage license, but by simply reporting their status as a family to the state.
My philosophy lead to a ground-breaking idea – the Domestic Union Card™. I create and promote human rights for family life by circumventing religious and government authorities and creating internationally-recognised civil alternatives to marriage and divorce. I propose ‘privatising’ marriage by living as common-law spouses without a marriage certificate. Common-law partnership offers privacy and autonomy in a world of increasing intrusion and regulation. It restores civil liberties taken from the individual and appropriated by the government. I ask, ‘why should the individual be required to obtain government approval to live with a partner? I believe this is a violation of privacy and conscience’.
I urge couples to consider and make a choice as to who holds the authority over their union according to their conscience. Those who choose religious marriage should be able to marry according to their beliefs. Those who wish to be independent of government or religious authority can choose common-law partnership over a marriage license. Its legitimacy is distinct from religious or civil marriage, whose authority is drawn from government or religion. Common-law partnership empowers individuals to take control over the most personal sphere of life by removing government or religious intervention. It makes you the master of your own destiny.
So from theory to practice, I invented this innovative legal solution to accommodate the needs created by this dramatic change by inventing the Domestic Union Card™, which constitutes the ultimate solution for personal sovereignty and legal validity. To ensure that common-law couples get legal status and rights, I developed Domestic Union Cards™ – picture identification cards that entitle couples to legal status and rights equal to married couples on the basis of a legal affidavit declaring themselves common-law spouses. Domestic Union Cards™ provide a lawful egalitarian alternative to any form of institutional marriage, religious, controlled by religious institutions, or civil, controlled by the state. A democratic government, as an expression of the will of the people, is obliged, not to grant permission for our choice of spouse, but to honor the autonomous choice made by its citizens.
I started the above revolution over 20 years ago in Israel and my cards are now recognized by most government institutions in my country. Over the years I continued to spread the word in various countries, some of which have chosen to embrace the concept.
Are we in the UK ready for such a change?
By Advocate Irit Rosenblum, a pioneer lawyer, who started the revolution in Israel, about 20 years ago by offering couples a Domestic Union Card’ which has become recognised by most Israeli institutions. We are now contemplating cooperation and much more is to come.