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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
On a Philosophical Note 
9th-May-2005 11:42 pm
Trevor baby stare
A separate entry, to separate historical narrative from social commentary. You should probably read the previous entry first.


I think the distinction between legal and social marriage is an important one. From a legal standpoint, marriage gives a couple certain rights such as filing taxes jointly, inheritance in the absence of a will, medical visitation, etc. Some companies provide further benefits based on marriage, such as insurance. It seems to me that these are things which should be limited to pairs of people with mismatched genitalia. Two men can create a Legal Partnership which is a single entity for tax purposes, can hire employees, provides certain rights and responsibilities, and comes with a name like Jones and Jones, Attorneys at Law. However, in most places in the USA, two men cannot create a legal partnership which is a single entity for tax purposes, can adopt children, provides any rights and responsibilities, and comes with a name like Jones and Jones, Husband and Husband. This sort of marriage is about establishing a household where people take care of each other, and providing legal support for that.

A social and/or religious marriage is about a lot of things. It's about tradition; it's about a public display of love; it's about family and friends affirming that this is a good idea; it's about getting dressed up in snazzy clothes and scattering flowers and playing your favorite love song. There are all sorts of religious rules, social considerations, and family issues involved in social marriage. There's nothing wrong with most of them, given that the couple is okay with them, and many of them serve very important purposes. But they have nothing to do with law, and thus should be entirely up to the couple getting married and the important parties involved (parents paying for the wedding, religious official conducting the ceremony, etc.). They shouldn't be enforced through the legislature.

The restriction of one man and one woman to a marriage is a long-standing tradition, but it's still a tradition. In many cases, what was officially a heterosexual pairing turns out to be a multiparty endeavor. Cultures as varied as the Muslims and the Mormons have had one-to-many relationships, while nobles the world 'round have had intimate relationships with multiple people at once. In some cases, wives were even proactive about finding mistresses for their husbands.

Furthermore, there have been countless people who have cared for each other in sickness and in health who happened to have similarly shaped genitals. Such unions have not traditionally been given the same social status as heterosexual pairings, but it doesn't mean the substance wasn't the same. They still made each other tea when one was sick, fought over messes in the kitchen, and groggily stole blankets at three in the morning. What's wrong with gay marriage? The same things that are wrong with straight marriages. Massachusetts has had full-fledged same-sex marriages for several months now and the fabric of society has not fallen apart.

In a land where you can stroll down to a bank kiosk in a supermarket and be officially married, a land where any number of any gender of adults can form a business partnership, why should only two people of opposite gender be allowed to get married?

This is not an attack on the sanctity of marriage. Religious organizations can still have whatever rules they want about marriage, divorce, child rearing, and what food's allowed to be in the wedding cake. The government isn't in the business of sanctifying anything. In Colorado, a religious official, a clerk, a judge, or even the couple themselves can solemnize a marriage. In a country founded on the separation of church and state, let's leave the sanctification to the churches and the solemnizing to the law.
Comments 
10th-May-2005 04:08 pm (UTC)
From the context of the rest of your post, I think you left out a "not" after the first "should" in the first paragraph ("I think the distinction...").

Any thoughts on whether legal marriage should be limited to pairs?
10th-May-2005 05:02 pm (UTC)
I actually wanted people to read the "We got married" post before the "Here's the theory." But I suppose it works either way.

The advantage of limiting marriage to pairs is that it limits disengenuous use. If certain benefits are gained by getting married, someone might charge people a small fee to become "one of the clan." This sounds like the sort of thing an insurance company would disagree with, but it wouldn't be a problem with nationalized health care :-)

Since it's quite feasible to have a three-person (or more) household, it seems like all three ought to be able to be a legal partner in the endeavor. Sneaky uses should be prevented by specific rules, not by disallowing legitimate uses.
10th-May-2005 11:45 pm (UTC)
The advantage of limiting marriage to pairs is that it limits disengenuous use. If certain benefits are gained by getting married, someone might charge people a small fee to become "one of the clan."

I'm dubious how much limiting marriage to two people really stops abuse. I remember in college hearing about a guy and a girl who roomed together, and filed common-law marriage paperwork to get a tax break on the place they rented. It's apparently not that uncommon, particularly in high-rent Boulder.
Another thing to think about is that in most states, including Colorado, you must cohabitate to be considered common law married. That alone makes it tough to abuse common law marriage.

Of course, if you ask me, the best thing to do is just to avoid this issue entirely, and tell the government that they aren't allowed to give any special privleges to married couples just cuz they're married. This approach seems eminently rational to me, (why treat married people any different than single people?) but then I am a bit of a libertoonian. ;]
10th-May-2005 07:58 pm (UTC)
In fairness, the social fabric in Massachusetts fell apart when they started electing Kennedys :-)
15th-May-2005 01:31 am (UTC)
So you're saying if Joseph Kennedy had been allowed to marry another man 100 years before it was legal, their social fabric would've been in good shape?
15th-May-2005 01:39 am (UTC)
Yeah, that seems reasonable. In those days, the only man I know of who legally married a man was FDR.
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