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Family Notices

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-==':='=- THE REFORM OF THE MARRIAGE LAWS. TKE Manx Bill, legalising marriage with a deceased wife's sister, which was passed the other day by the House of Keys, gives an interesting phase to a vexod and long con tested question. That such marriages should be valid in the fsle of Man, and not I recognised ou ihe mainland, will add yet another incongruity to an already singular anomalous state of things. We have one marriage law in England ahd Wales, an- other in Scotland, and another in Ireland, and vet again a different law in regard to the colonies and dependencies. It is, of course, impossible that there can be these local distinctions in the matrimonial law, without giving rise to grave social diffi- culties. That people should be married in one part of the Queer's dominions, and not married in another, is, in itself, an ab- surdity which urgently calls for reform. This is the most glaring injustice, yet all attempts to alter the law, with regard to marriages with a deceased wife's sister, have so far failed in this country. Such mar- riages are illegal in the United Kingdom by virtue of an Act passed about sixty years ago. This was done under the guidance of Lord Lyndhurst, who was the Lord Chancellor in Sir Robert Peel's two ministries. It was a rather scandalous pro- ceeding, seeing that it was undertaken in no small degree for the express and avowed object of affording relief to our aristocratic families. The bishops allowed the bill to pass, on condition that all future marriages with a sister-in-law were made invalid, instead of being merely voidable at the instance of interested parties as they had been before. Every session some attempt or other is made in Parliament to reverse the law, but they have always been defeated in the House of Lords, mainly under Epis copal influence. Last year the subject was indirectly raised by the Colonial Marriages Bill, introduced in the Upper House by Lord Strathcona On this occasion it met with a much more favourable reception in the House of Lords. The second reading of the bill was carried by 129 to 46, or a majority of 83, but this was in July-late in the session-and it made no further headway. The object of the bill was not to alter the law in this country, except to render marriages lawfully contracted with a deceased wife's sister in the British Co- lonies, valid in the United Kingdom. These marriages are legal in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Cape Colony, Mauritius, Ceylon, Barbadoes, and Jersey. This may not be an inclusive list, but in every instance these enactments must have received the assent of the Secretary of State. The Home Government by acquiescing in these statutes has practically acknowledged again and again, that there is no objection against them, and it is a simple matter of justice that the children of these marriages should have the same status, and the same rights of inheritance in this country, as they have in the Colonies under a duly autbo rised and constitutional law. There is really no room for discussion as to the fair and reasonable nature of such a demand. The only surprising thirg is) that such a manifest injustice should have been so long I permitted. It. is scarcely possible that this can continue after the decisive vote given in the House of Lords last year. It may \¡ indeed be doubted whether the movement in favour of validating marriages with a deceased life's sister can be much longer resisted. The bishops have fought against it as if the whole foundations of society were in jeopardy, but public opinion does not condemn these unions, and in the end it must prevail. The subject will again come up this session, and it will derive additional encouragement from the almost unanimous vote in the Manx House of Keys in favour of this reform. The com. mon sense of the nation has long since recognised its expediency, and the argu- ments in favour of one marriage law throughout the Christian portions of the British Empire are practically unanswer- able. What is Deeded, however, is for the Government to deal with the" question, either by official legislation, or, if it is deemed necessary, by the appointment of a commission to consider the whole condi- tion of the marriage law as it affects the United Kingdom and the Colonies. '0

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