Archive for the ‘get gov’t out of marriage’ Category
Such sad news: Paula Ettelbrick died last week. She was a good friend to AtMP. Everyone in our community should learn about her wise work. Please take a few moments to read some of the widespread coverage, and join our heartfelt condolences to her family.
If civil unions for all seemed like a solid trend, then New Hampshire just reversed its course. According to The Telegraph, a bill (HB 569) had been proposed to “replace same-sex marriage with domestic unions for all adult partners, be they heterosexual or homosexual couples.”
Easton Republican Rep. Gregory Sorg said there is no political support for domestic unions even though Gov. John Lynch signed a civil union bill for gay couples in 2007.
Lawmakers then replaced it with same-sex marriage. Lynch became the only sitting governor to have signed a law granting marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
“It seems to me there is no longer a constituency in the House for domestic unions. It has not been a Republican issue,” Sorg said.
“I do not believe the Democrats are in favor of reverting to civil unions and I know the Republicans aren’t,” he said.
Walpole Democratic Rep. Lucy Weber said the domestic union bill posed more complications than the civil unions law the state previously had.
“I have a very grave concern with the way this bill was written as opposed to the way civil unions was written,” Weber said.
“If we change to domestic unions for everybody, I am very unclear with how that meshes with all the federal laws and tax provisions that give us benefits because we are married.”
Professor Nancy Polikoff’s blog Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage is always worth reading (and you can always find it here, lower right side of your screen). This week she posted big news that I know you care about. You simply must check it out!
- 35,000 Michigan state employees to gain “plus one” health benefits
- Illinois civil union law signed today — more equality yet more injustice
- Penn Law Review hosts debate on arguing for marriage
If civil union or something like it were available to you, would you do it? Would you be excited, or shrug? What level of couple registration and rights would satisfy your desire for an alternative to marriage, or are you looking for something completely different? The LGBT community has debated whether to settle for civil union or keep demanding legal recognition for same-sex marriage. Where do different-sex couples and others fit in?
In France, different-sex couples get civil unions at the rate of two for every three marriages. They are quite different from marriage. In Illinois, different-sex partners will soon be eligible for civil union, which will be quite similar to marriage under state law. In eight other states, different-sex couples have access to varying levels of statewide registry and rights. AtMP supporter Mary Ann Vorasky is campaigning to create civil unions that are legally equivalent to marriage nationwide.
AtMP’s board-approved strategy is that marriage-equivalent civil unions are nice but not enough. We don’t want to simply re-name marriage, we want to reconsider the rights and responsibilities now associated with married couples. Some should be eliminated altogether; many should be expanded to cover other forms of adult interdependent relationships.
The topic of same-sex marriage has been covered so many times, there’s not much more to say. But I do like the way AtMP supporter and Columbia Law professor Katherine Franke puts it.
On Election Day we learned that the majority of Maine voters don’t want to share the word marriage with same-sex couples. Yet polls show that many are willing to share the rights and responsibilities typically accorded to spouses. Maine is in the unique opportunity to launch the experiment of truly civil partnerships for all.
Unique among all 50 states, Maine registers all non-related couples regardless of gender or age. Since 2004, Maine’s statewide domestic partnership registry has been open to any two competent adults who have been living together in Maine for at least 12 months, are each other’s sole domestic partner and expect to remain so, are not related in a fashion that would prohibit marriage, and are not married or in a registered domestic partnership with another person.
This means that all Mainers (is that the right nickname?) in different-sex couples who are willing to boycott marriage in solidarity with same-sex couples can register and have the exact same status legal status as registered same-sex couples. Imagine a well-publicized wave of DP registrations among a wide diversity of couples!
Then imagine the civil rights movement these couples could foment! I’d bet they could rapidly build a political base of support for expanding DP rights. Currently, Maine’s “domestic partners are accorded a legal status similar to that of a married person with respect to matters of probate, guardianships, conservatorships, inheritance, protection from abuse, and related matters.” How quickly could Maine could pass a law modeled on California’s to give DP’s all of the state-based protections and obligations of marriage?
There are important personal risks involved in this strategy. AtMP’s friend Frederick Hertz (an author of Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples, and an attorney who specializes in helping same-sex & unmarried couples) is highly sensitive to the financial costs and legal burdens that could be encountered by any couple that registers as DP’s with the state of California. For example: they have to file state tax returns as married but federal returns as single; they have to go through a state divorce but have no protection from federal double taxation upon transfer of assets; they faced higher property taxes until CA passed a remedial law. When we were exploring this issue back in 2006, he noted that people might opt out of the marital rules by doing a pre-nup, but that costs typically $5,000 or more and would be of limited value when it comes to spousal support, the costs of a dissolution, and joint liability for debts. He felt strongly that most people really don’t understand the negative consequences of registering, and if they want the benefits of marriage, they should marry.
I agree that contradictory layers of legal status are a nightmare. People need to be educated about the legal and financial obligations they are taking on when then enter in to DP (or marriage, for that matter). On the other hand, the reality is that people are seeking out alternatives to marriage. Access to a registered status might be an attractive option not only for boycotters but also for people who feel forced to marry even though they don’t believe marriage is the right status for them, because they need specific protections and benefits. I know several different-sex couples who are remaining unmarried even though it costs them a lot of money in local and federal taxes. The taboo against “marrying for the money” actually bolsters their resolve not to participate in the institution. Some of them might also refuse to register, but others might register despite the costs.
People have already ‘voted with their feet’ by not marrying. Philosophically speaking, non-discriminatory DP registries could be a step toward (a) non-discriminatory marriage and (b) recognition that too many legal and economic factors are being attached to coupledom. Isn’t “we’re all in this together” a better way to create change?
How nice to see this comment from Amanda Marcotte on Alternet:
We could start by untying all the benefits that lure people into marriage and expanding them to all people — health insurance, hospital visitation rights, tax breaks — so that married people don’t get special status over the unmarried.
Happy day after Pride! Not too sunburned or hungover, I hope. How many marriage posters and floats did you see?
As an antitdote, try these three fascinating articles:
- in The Nation, Lisa Duggan describes the expansive, progressive strategy that is winning real improvements for everyone in Utah (many thanks to Heather W. for finding this first)
- in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Tommi Avicolli Mecca describes the kinds of assistance that could have benefited impoverished LBGTQ people for the price of the marriage equality battle (many thanks to Rene A. for finding it!)
- and thanks to Stephen G. for finding the news in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press that
Married and unmarried couples should be treated equally under Minnesota law, the Minnesota State Bar Association said in a unanimous policy vote by its general assembly Friday morning.
Prior to my crisis, I was for equality under the law no matter how people grouped. Whether it was two old spinsters living together or a homosexual couple or a heterosexual couple, I think it ought to be the same under the law. But prior to my crisis, I thought the word ‘marriage,’ I thought it was worth defending the definition of it — the traditional definition of it, and I no longer believe that. … I think the government should recognize the union between people whether they’re gay or not in whatever the language they choose, whether they call it a marriage or a civil union, it’s up to them. If the government is going to be in the business of recognizing people grouped together as couples, then they need to that across the board. It’s a big change for me.
Con Law Prof Douglas Kmiec of Pepperdine can be viewed on the popular comedy show “The Colbert Report” in the April 16, 2009 episode here. Kmiec appeared on the show to promote his book, Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama, released last September. But the main topic of discussion was same-sex marriage. Kmiec appears at the conclusion of the show – after Colbert’s parody of the National Organization for Marriage advertisement, which Frank Rich discussed in his NYT column today here. Kmiec’s argument on the Colbert show is that the state should not be in the business of marriage, but should protect and support certain relationships, including it seems same-sex couples, and excluding, it seems, polygamous ones. Marriage, Kmiec seems to say, is a religious affair which should be separate from the state. Kmiec thus comes very close on the show to arguing for a marriage abolitionist position.
The arrival of the new administration in Washington presents opportunities to get government out of a particularly offensive branch of the marriage business: using welfare programs to promote marriage.
In December, AtMP co-authored a letter to HHS Secretary-designate Tom Daschle, urging him to appointment appropriate new leaders for the Administration of Children and Family Services. We continuing to work with an ad hoc coalition of academics and advocates to send detailed policy recommendations. Our bottom line: government funds that are intended to lift people out of poverty should go towards proven education and economic relief programs, not bridal billboards or religious dating classes.
The marriage movement is worried about losing its cash cow.
Since this is also the start of a new semester, here’s a special request to students and teachers. Help us find out what kind of marriage programs our tax dollars are paying for. AtMP’s Let Them Eat Wedding Rings has suggestions for how to contact and question a government funded marriage program in your neighborhood.