OTTAWA, January 30, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A Supreme Court of Canada decision that upheld Quebec's laws which provide rights to married couples that do not apply to couples merely living together has been applauded by pro-family organizations as a recognition of the unique and distinctive role that true marriage plays in society.

In what has become known as the Eric and Lola case, pseudonyms designed to protect the couple’s three children, the court ruled that the Quebec law that excludes cohabiting couples from receiving spousal support in the event of relationship breakdown is constitutional and does not discriminate against couples who choose to live together without the benefit of marriage.

In a close 5-4 decision, Chief Justice Beverley McLaughlin wrote, "Those who choose to marry choose the protections, but also the responsibilities, associated with that status. Those who choose not to marry avoid these state-imposed responsibilities and protections."

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) says that the decision accurately reflects the social science research which shows marriage to be substantively different from living common law.

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“There is great consensus from social scientists, no matter their political stripe, that marriage is different from living together,” said IMFC Manager of Research Andrea Mrozek. 

“Unfortunately, the statistical reality is that people living together break up more readily – even if they do eventually wed. They are more likely to have multiple partners. Their children face more problems – higher rates of school dropout, more drug use and an earlier age of sexual initiation. And single parents – typically mothers – are more likely to be poor. These are some of the harsh statistical realities of living together versus getting married, and it is wise to acknowledge this difference,” said Mrozek.

The IMFC points out that providing the same benefits to those living common-law and those who are married contradicts the research, and sends the wrong signal about the importance of marriage for society.

Moreover, the IMFC notes, the Supreme Court decision upholds a couple's freedom to choose not to enter into marriage, explaining that people living together generally do so because they do not want to get married, and they should not be told after the fact that they actually are married, simply because they lived together for a certain amount of time.

“As the saying goes, cohabitation is good preparation not for marriage, but for divorce. The Supreme Court of Canada decision today reflects the importance of establishing that marriage is a uniquely positive force for families in our culture,”  Mrozek stated.

Gwen Landolt of REAL Women of Canada also praised the decision, saying that the Supreme Court was correct in distinguishing between the rights and benefits of marriage and living common law.

"Statistically speaking, couples that are cohabiting are not as stable in their relationship as those in traditional marriage, which of course affects the children," Landolt said to LifeSiteNews.

"Studies show that even those couples that do marry after living common law are less stable and have a much higher incidence of marital breakdown and divorce.

"So what the Supreme Court has really said is that there are two different options for people: one is to commit yourself to a legal marriage; the other is to put one foot into a relationship and leave the other out, and take the consequences of that decision. 

"Of course, women predominantly bear the consequences of the second choice," Landolt observed, "and that has always been a major concern to me, because so few women who live common law realize how disadvantaged they are economically when the relationship ends."