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The Traditional Family Is Irrelevant Because It Doesn't Exist

09/06/2013 22:38 BST | Updated 09/08/2013 10:12 BST

A study released last week seems to finally invalidate the claims that same sex marriage would ruin family by stating that children in those families tend to be in healthier environments than those raised by traditional couples. They are certainly not, on the whole, damaged by such relationships. What was, to anyone with a bit of common sense, self-evident has now been proven through respected methods of social observation. Hurrah.

Once upon a time, when I hadn't really thought about it much, (always a dangerous time to form an opinion) I vaguely sympathised with the traditional marriage argument. I was all for same-sex couples getting married. The potential effect this might have on the children of these families on the other hand... well it all seemed a bit unhealthy changing the goalposts of society so much.

Except it isn't unhealthy and it doesn't change things. There has been endless discussion of the scientific evidence for this; the fact that infertile people could always marry has been a particularly preferred example. Similarly, there has been endless discussion regarding how far the institution of marriage has fallen; can anyone really argue that same-sex marriage damages that institution when you can have it annulled after seventy-two hours or file for divorce after seventy-two days? What hasn't been discussed though, probably partly because it seems so obvious, is the social structure that is a family. Advocates of 'traditional' marriage have rolled out their favourite phrase, the 'traditional' family, without acknowledging one simple fact; there isn't such a thing.

One of the features of a liberal and free society is that we never, with the exception of grave cases of human injustice, interfere with people's lives behind closed doors. Family is a part of life that is primarily played out behind closed doors. It is because of this that we can never know how any family truly functions other than our own; they are all behind closed doors.

When advocates of 'traditional' marriage say that the most functional environment for a child is this one (which, I assume, means only one adult of each sex) they can't honestly be basing that on anything other than their own experiences. For me personally, having grown up in a Brady Bunch style 'blended' family, being raised by only my two parents with only my two siblings seems an incredibly dull prospect. The doctors haven't told me I'm a maladjusted sociopath yet, though traditional is definitely not the word for my family circumstance.

The biggest issue concerning those debating marriage, and arguably all, policy in this country is that they are simply out of touch. Amongst their own and, particularly, their parents generations divorce and single parenthood was much less common, primarily because these set ups were much less socially acceptable. For the 20-year-olds of today a 'normal' family is a rare commodity. Less than half of my immediate friendship group belongs to a 'traditional' family thanks to unmarried, divorced, single or adoptive parents, amongst a plethora of other reasons and circumstances. What is clear is that the 'traditional' family is no longer the preeminent social force. Yet if anyone wanted to argue that this generation has been irreversibly harmed by the situation, they would have a hard time justifying themselves considering that we are, for example, the most educated generation ever.

Family, as asserted through marriage and children, is no longer defined by the elements of the unit. When we see increasingly alarming cases of parental abuse going through the courts how can we argue that it should be? One of the key findings of the Australians' study was that the children of same-sex couples tended to be more adept at coping with bullying and social issues because their parents pre-empted the potentially negative reaction to their own personal circumstance.

Our intuitions tell us that love and support make for confident and happy children and families. It's about time we listened to that intuition rather than the rules and restrictions of outdated social norms.