Why Get Married At All? Finances and Cohabitation

Last week, I wrote an article discussing reasons why the idea that men shouldn’t get married for financial reasons was false. In the article, I pointed out several purely financial reasons for men to get married, reasons that applied very well to women as well.

Many people responded with the great point that many of the benefits described in that article are also applicable to people who cohabitate. This is absolutely true. The benefit of reducing the cost per person for rent, energy, and so on occur when people are simply roommates, regardless of their relationship. Also, simply cohabitating instead of actually being married also avoids some of the negatives of marriage, such as legal entanglement.

However, there are several specific economic benefits to marriage over cohabitation that, when considered together, paint a positive economic view of marriage.

First, being married means you have the right to receive property settlements and support in the event of divorce. If you’re cohabitating, your partner is on the lease, and you suddenly find all of your stuff tossed out in the yard, your options are pretty limited. If you’re relying on your partner to support you and he or she tells you to get out, you’re completely on your own.

Second, being married means the ability to obtain family health, dental, and other insurance benefits. The exact rules on this vary from state to state, but generally it is much more difficult to obtain insurance through your partner’s employment if you are not married. Being able to obtain that insurance reduces the cost of insurance for both members of the household and often allows one member to take on a challenging (and often lucrative) alternative career path.

Third, being married means receiving your partner’s property in the event of death without a will (and even with an incomplete will). The presence of a spouse greatly simplifies the resolution of a person’s estate, as the spouse virtually always takes the property. If the cohabitants are not married, the door is open to a great deal of legal wrangling. One only needs to take a peek at the battle over Stieg Larsson’s estate for a clear example of what I’m talking about.

Fourth, being married means receiving survivor’s benefits from retirement plans and Social Security. If your partner dies before you and you’re married, you’re likely to continue receiving some benefit from his retirement and Social Security. If you’re unmarried, you don’t get any of these benefits.

Simply put, cohabitation certainly gives some of the same financial benefits of marriage as opposed to living single, but it does not confer all of the benefits.

Now, are there advantages to simple cohabitation over marriage? If you approach the relationship as though an end to the relationship is expected at some point, cohabitation is superior to marriage in many respects. In effect, smart cohabitants would function just like roommates, with clearly delineated finances and possessions, so that there are minimal issues if the relationship fractures.

In my eyes, danger enters the picture when cohabitants begin to share more and more things of financial consequence. When you begin to co-sign for loans and for utilities, you’re creating a serious financial challenge in the event of a messy breakup without clear rules to follow. Even more challenging is a cohabitation situation with a child involved. Cohabitation agreements can resolve some of this, but they have limited legal backing.

Simply put, I strongly encourage people not to financially bind themselves to each other unless they are entering into a legally married state. Such actions include cosigning for loans, co-ownership of major possessions, and having children. The drawbacks and challenges of disentanglement if one partner chooses not to be cooperative during a breakup (that would never happen, right?) aren’t worth it.

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  1. Micayla says:

    Crazy as it sounds, it’s not always the case that the spouse automatically gets everything in the case of a death w/o will. In Nebraska, if you die with no children and no will, half goes to your spouse and half to your parents. So everyone should check the laws of their state- or better yet, have a will.

  2. eva says:

    Marriage has lots of benefits that cohabitation does not. Which is why I would love to marry the person I have cohabitated with for many years…but my government will not let me.

  3. tentaculistic says:

    Interesting post, and thanks Trent for chewing over the many responses to your last marriage post. That’s part of what makes us loyal readers come back, that you are listening and thinking about what we say.

    As I was reading this article, I started to think it was basically just you putting forth your own view on marriage over shacking up… but I judged too quickly! Thanks for doing a balanced view of the pro’s and con’s of both situations. (I mention this because I foresee others jumping to the same thought and not reading all the way to the end of the article).

  4. MattJ says:

    Given that it’s still true (less true than in the past) that men are the primary breadwinners, these are mostly reasons for women, not men, to get married rather than cohabitate.

  5. tentaculistic says:

    Eva, my heart goes out to you, it truly does! We humans cause such cruelty and injustice against each other, I’m sorry you’re having to pay the price.

    Can I ask a dumb question that I have often wondered about, purely in order to be educated? I’m assuming by your response (hopefully correctly) that you are gay, and that your state does not allow for gay marriage. But I know that some states – not enough!! – do allow for gay marriage, and also that many straight couples marry in states other than where they live (often the bride’s home town), so is that not an option for gay couples?

    Or is it that your state (or some state in the US) would let you, but the Federal govt won’t recognize it as marriage under DOMA? If it’s that, does Federal recognition in real-world practical application negate a state’s gay marriage?

    Again, I’m really just trying to get knowledge. If you prefer not to answer, I totally understand.

    Peace.

  6. Tracy says:

    I basically agree with all of this except for the ending:

    “Simply put, I strongly encourage people not to financially bind themselves to each other unless they are entering into a legally married state. Such actions include cosigning for loans, co-ownership of major possessions, and having children. The drawbacks and challenges of disentanglement if one partner chooses not to be cooperative during a breakup (that would never happen, right?) aren’t worth it.”

    Because it implies that a divorce doesn’t have those kinds of consequences – and it absolutely does.

    It basically comes down to: be very careful who you are building any kind of relationship with, have one with lots of honesty and mutual respect and have contingency plans in case something goes wrong.

    But the points in terms of how much easier it *tends* to be to divide property up after a death, etc, are right on. (There are, of course, always outliers)

  7. KM says:

    Re: #4,

    The US federal government does not recognize any gay marriages (even those from states where it is legal), meaning a married gay couple in Massachusetts, for example, could not file as married on a federal tax return.

    Also, gay marriages from one state are not recognized in most (I think there are a couple of exceptions) other states.

  8. Joanna says:

    @Tentaculistic
    The federal government doesn’t recognize gay marriages, and neither do most US states. While I could go with my partner to get married in another state, when I come back to Oklahoma it makes no difference whatsoever legally.

    As it stands, if I were to be hospitalized, my exhusband would have the right to walk into my room and see me, while my partner would be denied for not being family. It’s the unfortunate state of things.

    With the right employer however, domestic partner benefits will still cover health insurance, death benefits etc.

  9. Hunter says:

    Re: gay marriage. Following post #4 this is an area of discrimination that needs attention. As we are all aware the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy towards our military service members is to be repealed and is being implemented now. This is a big step forward, but only the first step. Married gay couples will not enjoy the increased pay that heterosexual couples enjoy. There are many other examples and it will time and determination to bring about true equality.

  10. Joanna says:

    I’d also like to respond to your last point: “Simply put, I strongly encourage people not to financially bind themselves to each other unless they are entering into a legally married state. Such actions include cosigning for loans, co-ownership of major possessions, and having children.”

    Marriage doesn’t mean a relationship is going to work out. It’s not a good idea to do these things if you’re not going to be with the person long term, if you’re not a good fit, or they’re just plain irresponsible. If you’re in a long term committed relationship, marriage shouldn’t be a factor. Not all of us have that option. Also, your comment about not having children out of wedlock is kind of out of place, there are plenty of children raised by single parents, whether due to divorce or birth out of wedlock, and most of them are just fine.

  11. Telephus44 says:

    I also think Trent did a good job explaining the pros and cons, but I think paragraphs 9 and 10 are kind of contradictory. In paragraph 9, cohabitation is better if “an end to the relationship is expected at some point,” but then in paragraph 10 he goes on to explain how challenging and difficult a breakup can be if you cohabitate, and that marraige is better if you break up because it offers you better protections.

    I think that regardless of being married or just cohabitating, a bad breakup can be always be challenging and messy. You can get the short end of the stick either way. And I think that boils down to historical gender roles – as other commenters have pointed out, you have different vulnerabilities when you’re the breadwinner than when you’re not. If you’re the main breadwinner, you are better off (in the event of a breakup) then you’re better off co-habitating. If you’re not the main breadwinner, then you’re better off married.

  12. lastrunner says:

    If we’re talking about marriage from a purely financial sense, then it never makes sense for two people with roughly equal income to get married. They will pay more taxes jointly, especially when the combined annual income exceeds 166,800 and deductions begin to get phased out.

  13. Brianne says:

    @Eva,

    I was going to say something about how some people are not allowed to marry the person they co-habitat with but you beat me to the punch. As a resident of California, I’ve seen first-hand how unfairly some of our citizens are treated. My manager was lucky enough to get married during the short period of time that she could and her marriage is recognized by the state, but thanks to DOMA not recognized by the U.S. government. So, to California, she’s married and files taxes that way. But to the U.S. Government she is a “head of household.”

    At least one state, New York, recognizes marriages performed in other states though you can’t get married there. California recognizes marriages performed in other states, but only if the wedding occurred while same sex marriage was also legal in California.

  14. tentaculistic says:

    Thanks everyone for explaining the laws about gay marriage. What a sad situation. When – not if – you get those rights, I’ll be cheering you on!

  15. Des says:

    While I actually think this is a good overview of the differences between co-habitation and marriage, I’m not convinced that it does, in fact, paint a positive *economic* picture of marriage.

    “First, being married means you have the right to receive property settlements and support in the event of divorce. If you’re cohabitating, your partner is on the lease, and you suddenly find all of your stuff tossed out in the yard, your options are pretty limited.”

    This can be overcome very simply by making sure you are on your roommates’ lease (or other legal documents, as the case may be).

    “Second, being married means the ability to obtain family health, dental, and other insurance benefits.”

    Yes, this is a +1 for marriage

    “Third, being married means receiving your partner’s property in the event of death without a will (and even with an incomplete will).”

    This is resolved by having a will (something all of us adults should have).

    “Fourth, being married means receiving survivor’s benefits from retirement plans and Social Security.”

    Yes, +1 – but only for those couples that are old enough to retire or collect SS benefits, and only after your SO dies.

    So, in exchange for legally binding yourself to another person, you get a possible discount on health insurance and a bump in retirement income if you are old enough and your spouse dies. I don’t think that is a very good trade.

    The truth is, the REAL benefits of marriage are non-financial in nature: hospital visitation, social legitimacy, commitment, etc. I’m not sure it does Marriage any good to argue for it from a strictly financial standpoint.

  16. Stephanie says:

    I am going to echo #5, and say that the messiness of the breakup is going to rest with the maturity of the couple. If you are married to or cohabitating with a petty, vindictive person, your breakup is going to be awful.

    My feeling on this post is that you could use the whole thing as a political argument for legal recognition of domestic partners. It is absurd that a 19-year old can sign a piece of paper (committing his or her life FOREVER), and receive benefits, but a couple who has been living together for 10 years cannot.

    Trent, your ‘if the relationship is expected to end…’ sounds kind of sneery and holier than thou. I think it is kind of silly that people would ever get married – to declare that you will only ever want to be with one person is a little naive to me. Since women are no longer property (in the US), and are able to earn a living wage, there is little need to declare ‘Forever!!’ except for the thrill of love and the legal benefits. If you could cohabitate and simply check a box on whatever form that says ‘we are still living together’ to receive the same benefit as a one-time ‘Forever!!,’ would you still endorse marriage??

  17. John Fred Krinkle says:

    “First, being married means you have the right to receive property settlements and support in the event of divorce”

    If you are the breadwinner, this is an argument *against* getting married.

  18. Kathleen says:

    Glad to see a thoughtful response to last week’s comments!

  19. Sara A. says:

    Also, I haven’t seen anyone mention that sometimes couples CAN’T get married, because of sexual orientation or various other reasons. However, since this has become a recurring topic, how about reviewing one of the books on the subject of non-married finances?

    Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples by Ralph E. Warner

    Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple by Dorian Solot

    Money Without Matrimony: The Unmarried Couple’s Guide to Financial Security by Sheryl Garrett

    Or, how about writing about wills and trusts for unmarried couples or financial/medical power of attorneys for unmarried couples?

  20. Troy says:

    Actually only #4 is specific to marriage. And even then the benefits only apply to a surviving spouse. Survivor benefits to minor children will still be paid to their legal guardian who does not have to be married to the deceased.

    #1 “being married means you have the right to receive property settlements and support in the event of divorce.”

    So the benefit of marriage is the benefits of divorce. OK. And keep in mind usually only one member “financially benefits” from divorce. So one gets to recieve, and one gets to “pay”

    #2 “being married means the ability to obtain family health, dental, and other insurance benefits.”

    The assumption is that group health is available, which isn’t always true. And maybe it is available to both parties. MAybe the group plan sucks and individual insurance is sheaper. Being married doesn’t automatically make health insurance cheaper or better.”

    3# “being married means receiving your partner’s property in the event of death without a will (and even with an incomplete will).”

    Inaccurate. You can TOD any financial account without a will or marraige to anyone you choose. Bank accounts, retirement, investment & insurance policies. Named beneficiaries bypass probate and are not required to be spouses. Vehichles and personal property can be titled with a TOD. Marriage is absolutely not necessary.

    Trent…Did you put any work into this post? I do agree with the last paragraph, but not for your reasons above.

    And I am very happily married.

  21. Laundry Lady says:

    Issues such as hospital visitation and medical decision making can be solved by having the proper documents filed before hand. You can appoint pretty much anyone to have medical power of attorney. (though that is no guarantee that the whole thing won’t be challenged in court if family members disagree, married or otherwise). I’ve had no trouble visiting hospitalized friends in spite of not being technically family, even in the ER. Perhaps it’s different with different states or in different hospitals

  22. Julie says:

    I am a Californian that believes that marriage is between one man and one woman and should not be redefined to mean:

    1) two women
    2) two men
    3) one man and two, three or four women
    4) a brother and his sister
    5) a father and his daughter
    6) a woman and a rollercoaster
    6) a man and his Christmas Tree. (seriously, check the internet on the last two)

    That being said, many people that I know that are against re-defining marriage are not against offering many…if not all…of the benefits afforded married couples to committed gay couples. I believe that most would just prefer that a non man/woman union be called something other than “marriage.” Once the redefinig starts, “marriage” will be open to interpretation and anyone that doesn’t agree will be accused of discrimination.

  23. FYI says:

    Re #3: check your state laws before assuming your spouse will receive your property if you die intestate. In my state, the spouse receives all of the deceased spouse’s interest in community property, but half (or one third, depending on the number of surviving children) of the deceased’s separate property if the deceased has one or more surviving children or parents. Before deciding not to have a will, figure out what will happen to your property in the state(s) where it is located and make sure you are comfortable with the distribution scheme.

  24. Dale says:

    I enjoyed this post. Keep in mind that many of the issues you bring up have different twists to them depending on which of the 50 states you live in. In fact, in some states you can get Married without ever having a license, just by cohabitating and holding yourselves out as husband and wife to a third party (like Oklahoma). I would encourage anyone considering these issues to visit with their family law attorney, or get one.

  25. Joanna says:

    Julie, I am fine with your idea about not allowing same sex couples to get married, and honestly am happy you didn’t follow it with comparing it to beastiality like many of your viewpoint do. However, the whole seperate but equal didn’t work out for the african americans, and it wont fly for the homosexuals either. History will be on the side of equality in the long run.

    If you don’t want marriage “tainted” then take it away from the law completely, and give everyone civil unions and domestic partnerships in the eyes of the government. Marriages can be performed by churches, and not recognized by the law. We have something like this now, as marriages without a license aren’t really legal, despite the cermony. People talk about the sanctity of marriage, but that’s a religious and moral standpoint, not a legal one. I shouldn’t be denied the same rights with my partner as any retard who gets married to a stranger in vegas at 3am can get without thought.

  26. FYI says:

    Comment #20 is especially applicable to the third point about disposition of property on death. Intestacy laws vary by state, so review the law in your state before blindly assuming your spouse will receive all of your property upon your death if you die without a will. In my state, only community property goes entirely to the spouse; separate property is divided between the spouse and children or parents of the deceased.

  27. Holly says:

    Interesting how different things are here in Canada… after a year of living together, you are considered common-law married, with all the same financial rights as if you had a ceremony. This applies to same sex couples as well. :)

  28. cv says:

    The big advantage of marriage when it comes to health insurance is that the spouse’s insurance under a group plan is tax-exempt. For domestic partners, gay or straight, who are on their partner’s plan, they have to pay taxes on the value of the plan (including the employer’s contribution) as additional income.

    @14 Stephanie, I took the comment about expecting relationships to end as a reference to things like a cohabiting relationship where one person is planning a major life change and the other hasn’t decided yet whether to go along. I have lots of friends in grad school who have moved across the country before or after the program, and it can be hard on relationships. People who aren’t confident their relationship will last through both partners’ educations and early career choices shouldn’t get married.

    For those who are curious about the impact on gay couples, and also a good overview of the economic impact of marriage in general, check out:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/03/your-money/03money.html?_r=1

  29. Interested Reader says:

    @Lunch Lady, unfortunately in the case of same sex relationships having the documents doesn’t always help. There was at least one case that I know of in Florida where a woman was denied the right to see her wife (they were married in another state and visiting) even though they had the proper documents.

    @Julie you say “many…if not all..of the benefits afforded to married couples” so what benefits would you not include?

  30. MM says:

    @Julie, twenty-six states in the union allow first cousin marriage and require the other twenty-four states to recognize and give legal privileges to those couples. Same-sex couples are already considered married in a number of states. Making up a new word for Californians wouldn’t make much sense when there’s already a word that means “two people bound together in love making a life together.” But if you don’t want to share your word, feel free to make up a new one for yourself and call your partnership that instead. We won’t mind.

  31. Stan says:

    @Julie: So I’m just curious — Exactly what benefits that married heterosexual couples have should be excluded from same-sex couples? Other than the word “marriage,” what else would you object to?

  32. Rafiki says:

    While these are good points they are mostly only relevant if an end to the relationship is in sight, yes it is a situation that is possible but i don’t think it paints a good reason to get married if the major benefits over cohabitation only come with death or separation. In the end though it is your personal choice but the final point Trent makes is one everyone should apply or at least consider heavily.

  33. rosa rugosa says:

    Well, I’m proud of my home state of Massachusetts for being progressive in the area of gay marriage. My employer also offers benefits to domestic partners. So come to Massachusetts, Eva & Joanna :)

  34. Julie says:

    Joanne,

    A quote I once read, and agree with… “Civil rights should be based on hummanity…those things which are immutable and unchangeable. (i.e. race, physical disability) They should not be based on preferences, habits, or behaviours.”

    I do agree with you in that marriage has been completely descrated by our culture, and I do not defend the right of anyone who marries merely to stay in the country, for financial reasons, or in a drunken stupor in Las Vegas. And if this just about money, then I would agree with you regarding how marriage is defined for legal (money)/verses moral purposes.

    However I believe that this is about more than money…just as I believe that some things just aren’t “equal.”

    While I fully believe that a black man is equal to a white man, I don’t agree that I am obligated to accept the veiwpoint that a homosexual relationship is “eqaul” to a heterosexual relationship. I also do not accept that a family consisting of two mothers is “equal” to a family consisting of a mother and father. Sure, there are situations where the two mothers may be better parents than many other lousy male/female parents. But there is an “optimal” situation for raising a child, and you don’t have to be a religious or moral person to figure it out. It stands true for both evolutionist and creations. Nature makes it obvious to us. The optimal situation for a child is a loving mother and a loving father raising a child in a loving environment.

    I am hoping there will never come a day when I am not given the same freedom to express my opinion as you are given to express yours. In fact I am somewhat amazed at the sympathy that you are receiving on this post…just because you aren’t getting the same financial incentives as your heterosexual counterparts. The reality is, our culture is more accepting of homosexuals than many in the world. In fact homosexuality is celebrated in our media and on our TV shows in a disproportianate percentage to the rate of homosexuality in our country. Evenso, more than half of Californians/Americans agree with me…yet not many are posting here because generally we will be told that we are hateful/discrminating. This is simply not true. We just have a different opinon on the matter.

    In a nutshell…do I expect for you to live according to what I believe? No. Am I obligated as a human being to be kind and respectful to you and treat you with human dignity. ABSOLUTELY. Do I have to one day be “converted” to believe that your lifestyle is “equal” to my own. No. Will I be able to continue to openly express my disagreement with you in the future? I hope so….

  35. Sarah says:

    Just for variety’s sake, it is not necessary to write “Simply put” every time you come to a conclusion in an article.

  36. Noadi says:

    Sorry Julia, not only do I think marriage should be okay for two men or two women but I have no problem with group marriage either. In fact I don’t even have a strong objection to incestuous marriages assuming everyone is a consenting adult (I find it personally very creepy but since I see no clear victim in the arrangement I see no good reason to ban it).

    Marriage from a legal standpoint is a contract and as such as long as everyone involved is an adult capable of consent there should be no limitations to who should be allowed to enter into the contract. It is up to individual faiths whether or not to perform marriage ceremonies or give their blessing to any marriage. I’m an atheist and if I ever get married I don’t expect the Catholic church or the local synagogue to recognize my marriage because it’s none of their business because I’m not a member of the congregation.

  37. Interested Reader says:

    Julie, if the day comes that same sex marriage is legal in every state that won’t take away your right to express your opinion that it is wrong.

    You will always have the freedom to express your opinion. But your opinion may not always be the same as what is legally allowed.

    Honestly I don’t care if you ever change your opinion.

    All I really want to know is what benefits of marriage should be excluded from same sex couples if they just have a legally recognized partnership?

  38. Jonathan says:

    #14, Stephanie, wrote “I think it is kind of silly that people would ever get married – to declare that you will only ever want to be with one person is a little naive to me. Since women are no longer property (in the US), and are able to earn a living wage, there is little need to declare ‘Forever!!’ except for the thrill of love and the legal benefits.”

    I think this completely misses the point of marriage (don’t worry, many people miss the point). The commitment is not “’til we grow tired of each other,” it’s “’til death do us part.” It’s a lifelong commitment CHOOSING to belong to each other for life no matter what else happens. Naive? No…Just a choice made with conviction.

  39. Interested Reader says:

    I’m not advocating that people should enter into marriage lightly but “until death do us part” is a longer than it used to be. The idea can be daunting.

    although I’m not really one to talk about marriage, I’m pushing 40 and never have been.

  40. Julie says:

    Stan,

    The reality is that same sex couples are excluded from very few benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy, and most of them are mentioned previously in this post. They relate to income taxes, inheritance, and decisions on a loved one’s health care. Most people are very poorly educated as to what discrimination issues really exist.

    I personally made the decision for my company to insure “domestic” partners more than 10 years ago. And now, when a company renews their insurance under the new Obama guidelines(all plans renew every year), if you don’t “grandfather” your plan, you are required to cover domestic partners. My advisors have told me that most companies did not grandfather their plans. Also, it is important to note that you can only cover domestic partners that are same sex on a tax free basis. If you cover a domestic partner of the opposite sex, there are negative tax implications in the state of California. The value of their insurance is supposed to be added to the employee’s W-2 as a taxable fringe benefit for state taxes. This clearly means that non/married heterosexual couples are now facing unfair discrimination in California.

  41. Julie says:

    Naodi,

    2 questions:

    1) Why do you find an incestuous marriage creepy?

    2) How would you like to live in a culture where incestuous marriage became the “norm.”

  42. Julie says:

    MM,

    I think Civil Union works fine.

  43. MM says:

    @Julie, then feel free to use that term. I’ll use “marriage” for mine, thank you.

  44. Julie says:

    #29,

    I don’t think any benefits should be withheld. That was the point of my post.

  45. Julie says:

    And I will use marriage for mine and civil union for yours….

  46. Swm says:

    What an incredibly selfish statement, Julie. Within your rights, but selfish and hurtful.

    Also, you are actually wrong about domestic partner coverage being required under the new healthcare plan – it didn’t make it into the bill.

  47. MM says:

    I’d take it happily, but you don’t know who I’m married to. I’m a woman married to a man. My friend is a woman who is married to a woman. My other friend is a man married to a man. Their marriages are legally recognized where they married, as is mine. We’re all happy with this. You’re the one complaining about sharing, and your definition of marriage isn’t the one about being in love, so you get the new civil term, and we get to be with the person we love. You can call your partnership a turnip for all I care, but telling someone else they can’t have your word because they stepped across state lines? That’s just petty and mean-spirited, and while I will protect your legal right to say it, I will thumb my nose at you when you do.

  48. Todd says:

    I’ve heard that there are people who think of religion primarily in terms of money: What church do the highest class people in town attend? What church will help me make connections in the business world? etc.

    But I think for most, one’s faith (and one’s marriage) are choices made for reasons more about giving than receiving, even when that turns out to be financially “illogical.”

    Arguing about who should not have the right to marry seems to me like arguing who should be “kept out” of a church. If the point is giving and sharing, why would anyone be kept out. If it’s not, why would anyone want in?

  49. Julie says:

    MM,

    You know, I had 2nd thoughts as soon as I hit the enter key. I was a little irked by the tone in your response to me. Sometimes it is difficult to express an opinion knowing full well that you are going to be attacked. I had a feeling you were married to a man, and regardless of your situation…my comment to you was rude and inappropriate. I apologize.

    It isn’t about a word…it is about accepting one relationship as equal to another. I don’t accept the two relationships as equal.

  50. Julie says:

    Todd,

    Then I would assume you have no problem with a father marrying his daughter and our media celebrating it as normal?

  51. Joanna says:

    Julie: Your quote that you put in an above post, “Civil rights should be based on hummanity…those things which are immutable and unchangeable. (i.e. race, physical disability) They should not be based on preferences, habits, or behaviours.”

    I agree with this as well. Herein lies the difference. I was born gay. You were born straight. You telling me that it’s a choice doesn’t make it so. Who better to know whether it’s a choice than the person living with it? I did choose to marry a man when I was very young, even though I knew better. After that, I realized that I couldn’t change who I am, and stopped trying. I can’t force you to believe that we’re born this way, but you can’t very well expect us to take your supposition that we’re not. Someday you’ll realize the truth, I hope, and that quote will mean the opposite to you.

  52. Joanna says:

    There is a very clear distinction between incest and homosexuality that I think you’re overlooking here Julie. Incest is illegal and has been for a very long time because it leads to genetic defects, due to a non-diverse gene pool. This is why royalty was so fragile in european history when brothers married sisters generation after generation. It’s not morality, it’s science.

    By the way, I hope you don’t feel I am offended or upset by your comments. I welcome the discussion.

  53. Katie says:

    Julie, we all have beliefs. That’s fine. You and I both believe a father marrying his daughter is wrong. You believe a man marrying a man is wrong; I don’t. The question is, what beliefs should be legally forced onto others who don’t share them by, for instance, forbidding some people access to basic civic institutions on the basis of them.

    This is a complicated question. Fortunately, we have more than two hundred years of legal history that has sprung up to deal with it. And one of the tests that legal system has developed is called the “rational basis” test. This is the easiest type of test for a law to meet. Under it, if the government can show a rational basis (and because of our Constitution, “my religion says it should be one way” is not a valid basis) for the law, it is constitutional and can stand. I bet we can come up with all kinds of rational bases for why parents shouldn’t be allowed to marry their children. For instance:

    1) the oft-cited genetic defects that occur in the off-spring of incestuous relationships;

    2) the parent will always be acting in some sense coercively as to a sexual relationship with their child – the choice will never be a free one;

    3) oodles of scientific data demonstrating the psychological harm that results from sexual abuse of children by their parents and the need to not be validating such an abusive relationship.

    That’s just a start. Conversely, proponents of California’s proposition 8 were unable to show a single rational basis for prohibiting same-sex marriage. So your slippery slope argument is frankly pretty ridiculous. There’s no legal reason why one will lead to the other except that you happen to think they’re both wrong.

  54. Interested Reader says:

    Julie you talk about having a power of attorney and papers to prove relationships for medical care and Obama signing bills.

    Having a piece of paper saying someone has the right to visit doesn’t mean that a hospital had to recognize it.

    In Florida, in 2007 a woman and her children were not allowed to visit their wife (and mother) because the women were (obviously) lesbians and the children were not her biological children.

    ” While her partner was dying, this is what Langbehn encountered: “A social worker appeared to inform me that I was ‘in an anti-gay city and state.’ He explained that this meant I would not be allowed to see Lisa or make decisions about her care without a Health Care Proxy. I asked for his name and fax number and within 20 minutes I had contacted close friends in Olympia, Wash., who raced to our house, found all our legal documents including our Durable Power of Attorney, Living Wills and Advance Directives and faxed them to the hospital.” But the hospital still denied Langbehn access and Pond died without her family at her side.”

    They were together for 18 years and even having the paperwork did nothing.

    So Obama signed a memo,to change that. So that families don’t have to go through that.

    Being married and having a marriage that is recognized on every state would have prevented what happened.

  55. Justine says:

    I’m a Catholic and my husband is a Baptist. I’m for gay marriage (Decided to work for change in my church for the better) and my husband is against it morally. HOWEVER, his opinion is that the US of A should grant marriages/civil unions (why so hung up on the word marriage? it’s just a word. A civil union is no different than a marriage, so why all the fuss?) solely because our country was built on separation between church and state.

    As we allow others to practice their own religions regardless of what we think about them, so too should we not judge others for their lifestyle as they do not damage vulnerable populations nor society itself. Further than that, it’s actually not a “lifestyle” (as that would indicate a choice in the matter of sexual attraction) but rather something innate that one doesn’t choose and “can’t help” (as my church has admitted).

    @MattJ, I make almost twice as much as my husband does and he has a masters degree (teaching) and I only a bachelor’s (RN). When I eventually go back for my masters or doctorate (haven’t decided which), I will make almost three times as much…so I wouldn’t say that men are the primary breadwinners. When we have children, he is going to stay at home to raise them until they go to school–partially because I would go crazy if I had to stay home all the time and partially because I make so much more than he does and will do so for the rest of our career trajectories.

  56. Julie says:

    Interested Reader,

    I stated it as one area where there are differences between heterosexual and homo-sexual relationships. So if I understand what you are saying, this is no longer an area of discrimination and we are down to just income taxes and inheritance issues?

  57. Julie says:

    Joanne,

    So something in your gut just doesn’t instinctively tell you that incest is not natural…not normal? Do you really need to look at the genetic abnormalities to figure that out?

    Does the fact that homosexual couples can’t naturally have children possibly point the the “unnaturalness” of their realtionship?

  58. Rachel says:

    @Joanna re: children out of wedlock. I don’t think Trent was speaking to the well being of the children. I think his stance is from a financial/legal standpoint. I believe (not 100% sure though), if your marriage ends in divorce you are entitled to child support and alimony vs. if you were cohabiting you’re only entitled to child support. Also I don’t know if the laws are the same as to who gets to keep the kids.

  59. Tracy says:

    @Julie

    My gut tells me that snails are icky to eat, but many cultures enjoy them. ‘Guts’ are not really good indications of anything other than cultural upbringing and aren’t exactly the best reasons to inflict your own morality on others.

  60. Joanna says:

    Julie, if you had asked someone 100 years ago, they would have told you that interracial marriages are unnatural, disgusting and not normal.

    200 years ago, they would have said women who were working outside the home or staying unmarried were unnatural, and even witches to be feared.

    It’s a matter of society, and upbringing. What you’re taught and the state of your surroundings has a huge impact on whether something feels wrong and normal to you. Young people today feel very different about homosexuals than their grandparents did. We’re evolving in thought towards equality, just like we have on other issues in the past.

    As far as homosexuals not being able to have children, do you also feel that a marriage between two heterosexual people who are sterile is unnatural? I know my sister in law is unable to bear children, should we consider their marriage obscene? I can’t really think of anything more natural than love between two people, but that’s just me.

  61. Katie says:

    Does the fact that homosexual couples can’t naturally have children possibly point the the “unnaturalness” of their realtionship?

    Do you also advocate prohibiting women over the age of, say, 50 from getting married? Aren’t any relationships they may have equally “unnatural”?

  62. Julie says:

    Joanne,

    I hit enter too early…and I didn’t get to finish my thoughts and left off at a somewhat offensive point.

    I think we could have the argument from here to kingdom come about the sexual preference we were born with. Quite frankly, I don’t remember what my sexual preference was the day I was born. Maybe I was born with it, maybe it was shaped into me by my parenting, maybe I was abused as a very young child. I don’t know. What I believe you are saying is that you don’t feel as though you had a choice in the matter, and I totally understand that and I respect what you are saying.

    This is a very difficult situation, and thus I have come to the conclusion that I personally want to treat you with the complete dignity and respect that you deserve. But I don’t want to be forced to say the a homosexual relationship is perfectly equal to a hetorsexual relationship, nor am I willing to accept that sexual preference is in the same category as race and physical handicap. The word “preference” alone takes it out of the category.

    I am sorry if I have offended you. That was not my intent. Now I am signing off for the night.

  63. Interested Reader says:

    Julie so you are saying that heterosexual people who are naturally, physically unable to have children shouldn’t get married?

    Also Julie that law only protects same sex couples in hospital settings. It doesn’t protect them in other settings – such as doctor’s offices or nursing homes.

    It’s more than just taxes and inheritance it’s people’s relationships being recognized as legitimate no matter. The first couple married in San Francisco were together for 50 years. FIFTY years and yet their relationship was seen as less – in society’s eyes, and in the eyes of the law – than people who have been married and divorced in less than a year.

  64. MM says:

    @Julie, you’re not being attacked, you’re being disagreed with on the internet by people who know more about a topic than you do. Now would be a good time to do some research and come back with facts. One fact: one quarter of lesbian couples have children. Another: study after study has shown that children raised by two same sex parents have absolutely no differences from children raised in a home with opposite sex parents. (At least one study found that children raised by two same-sex parents were happier and had a more stable home life than children raised by a single parent, but I don’t know how well that study was controlled for economic level and won’t vouch for its validity until I do.) In short, all the numbers, including Trent’s, support legalizing same-sex marriage. All we’re left with in the anti-marriage column is your gut, and well, I’m going with facts on this one.

  65. Michelle says:

    Julie, does the fact that some heterosexual couples can’t have children possibly point to the “unnaturalness” of their relationship?

  66. Interested Reader says:

    Julie I know for FACT – meaning I have spoken to people

    Who do not believe that non whites are equal to whites. They firmly believe that the races are different on a genetic level and that anyone who is not white is inferior to those who are white.

    I have spoken to people who want to go back to segregation and who think it’s unnatural — who know in their gut — that it is unnatural and wrong for people of different races to marry and have children.

    They won’t say in so many words “I like segregation” but they say it in other ways. When they complain about all the non white people taking over and how we have one of “those people” as president, etc and so on.

  67. Julie says:

    #44,

    One final comment

    Are you sure that the problem doesn’t lie in your definition of rational? Maybe you just don’t accept their statistics as valid because they don’t support your belief.

    Different studies have been done as to the percentage of homosexuality in nature/our culture/etc. Most show that the natural rate is less than 2%. However there are a few done by homosexual proponent groups that show about 10%. I don’t believe that 10% is an accurate percentage. Do you?

  68. Joanna says:

    Julie: I am not offended in the least, I would have to be pretty blind not to know that a large number of people feel the same way you do, and most of them are far less respectful about it. I’d much rather have a thoughtful and intelligent discussion about it than have some moron scream Dyke from his car window and keep driving. Even if your mind can’t be swayed, I appreciate your openness. Have a pleasant evening.

  69. Joanna says:

    Percentage-wise, I’d say the number is very likely close to 10%. No, I don’t mean one in every 10 people is engaging in homosexuality, but I do mean that one in every ten is inclined towards it, at a minimum. They may choose not to follow their feelings, they may “dabble”, they may be openly bisexual, they may live a gay lifestyle. How they choose to deal with their feelings, is irrelevant. We can never get a true number on this because social stigma will keep many of these people from ever checking “yes” on a survey asking about their sexual tendencies.

    Also, a word on sexual preference. Heterosexuals are said to have a sexual preference of being straight. Doesn’t mean they made a conscious decision to be straight, that’s just the term used. If it meant that homosexuals chose to be gay, there would be a different term to discribe why heterosexuals are with member of the opposite sex. Shall I start saying sexual inclination, or sexual predestination instead?

  70. Rachel says:

    Depending on your upbringing and surrounding culture, sometimes it’s very difficult to accept same sex marriages from a purely moral standpoint. I know it is for me. I want VERY much to be able to see a gay couple, shrug my shoulders and walk on my merry way. Unfortunately, its been made obvious to me from a very early age that homosexuality is wrong, and I can’t seem to shake the notion. I DO however strongly support (politically and otherwise) homo-sexual marriages, and equal rights, even though I don’t morally agree with home-sexual union.

  71. Joanna says:

    @Interested Reader:
    In response to your post above, I can give you some supporting evidence for your point. Things like this are shocking, and newsworthy now. In a few years, and it’s already begun in some ways, it will be shocking and newsworthy when gays are treated wrongly as well.

    From news in 2007:
    James Watson, one of the world’s most eminent scientists and winner of a Nobel Prize has caused a firestorm of criticism after reportedly claiming that white people are more intelligent than black people.

    Dr Watson said he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.”

    The 79-year-old geneticist went on to say that despite his wishing that everyone was equal “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

  72. Joanna says:

    Rachel: I understand completely where you’re coming from, I really do. I admire that you’re able to look past your personal moral beliefs and speak in favor of equal rights.

    As Voltaire said about freedom of speech, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

    People don’t need to agree with our lifestyle, but they should believe in equal rights for all.

  73. Julie says:

    MM…I am back.:)

    I have a hard time trusting any study on this subject for a number of reasons…

    I don’t doubt that their are children being well raised by a set of same-sex parents. And I know of many heterosexual couples that have done a terrible job at raising a family. There are examples of wonderful and horrible outcomes from every type of parenting situation. What I am talking about is what is optimal. I am being asked to consider all other arrangements “equal” to what is optimal. I believe that the optimal situation for raising a child is for a child to have a nurturing mother and father that are also in a loving relationship with each other. And I believe that nature supports this opinion (for a human being) and it isn’t based on a moral judgement. Neither a mother nor a father is disposable. Unfortunately it is sad that this doesn’t happen very often these days. I am very frustrated by the lack of committment amongst hetero-sexual couples to fulfill their obligations to their spouse/children. I am equally bothered when female movie stars proclaim that they want to have a child and their child has no need of a father in its life.

  74. Julie says:

    Tracy,

    I like snails…in garlic and butter. So you have no problem with a father marrying his daughter?

    If incestuous relationships are being celebrated in 20 years and your daughter goes to high school and she is told that if she has feelings for her father, it is OK for her to explore them, will you be supportive?

  75. Tracy says:

    I’m not saying that. I’m saying, because my ‘gut instinct’ says it’s wrong isn’t a reason. There are lots of reasons why a father/daughter relationship is an issue – Katie’s post had many of them.

  76. Julie says:

    Just to make my point clear one more time. I don’t expect anyone to live by more morals. I am not telling anyone who they can love, and who they can’t love, and who they can live with. I want every committed couple to have the same financial/and legal benefits that I enjoy as a married heterosexual. I don’t want to deny anyone of any personal freedom. But this isn’t about personal freedom and discrimination… Every argument made has been about me accepting a homosexual, incestuous, polygamist or any type of relationship as being equal to a heterosexual relationship.

    This was my point from the very begining. The arguments aren’t really about discrimination because REQUIRES action. They are about changing my belief system….

  77. Julie says:

    Joanne,

    As far as what people believed 100 years ago, I somewhat doubt that I would have fallen into that category. Believe it or not, I am highly educated, well read, and not really swayed by public opinion no matter what the topic. I am also not phobic…

    I wish you the best, and I hope that, if nothing else, you will know that there are those on the other side of this argument that are human, caring and not trying to keep you from living the life that you live.

  78. NewReader says:

    The “slippery slope” argument that legalizing gay marriage will lead to legalizing incest, people marrying their pets, etc. is a red herring, trotted out every time the legalities of marriage evolve to reflect the evolving values of society.

    Julie, no one can force you “to say the (sic) a homosexual relationship is perfectly equal to a hetorsexual (sic) relationship,” but that doesn’t mean that it ain’t the truth. I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time with any gay or lesbian families. My husband and I have (I’m a woman) and the only difference I can discern is that our gay and lesbian friends have to deal with discrimination that my husband and I are spared.

  79. Julie says:

    NewReader,

    Maybe your are right…maybe not. I saw a number of posters who don’t really seem too bothered by the concept of incest and believe it is only illegal due to the genetic issues. The fact that nature itself doesn’t seem to support either incestual or homo-sexual relationships, (thus maybe they shouldn’t be celebrated or normalized) apparently isn’t relevant in this argument. Once again, I don’t want to discriminate against any group of people nor do I want to take away their ability to live the life they choose. As I mentioned before, I personally made the decision to give domestic partners medical benefits 10 years ago.

    However I don’t want something to be “normalized” and even celebrated when stastically/and naturally the behaviour is not “normative.”

  80. tb says:

    defend the optimal divorce.

  81. Lex says:

    Julie: by your argumentation, my marriage is unnatural and wrong since we can’t have children. I’m a woman, he’s a man. We need to go to a fertility clinic to make it work – just like gay couples. Marriage isn’t dependant on nor validated by fertility.

  82. Michelle says:

    Julie, you are making me very curious about your concern for different relationships being “natural”. What is natural? There are many things about the way we live our lives in 2011 that are unatural: our homes, our cars, the food we eat, etc, but are all of the ways we do these things morally wrong because they are unatural?

    I don’t know if you’re doing this, but I have encountered many people who are just plain uncomfortable with homosexuality and use the fertility and “natural”-ness of it to make their claim that it’s wrong.

  83. Tracy W says:

    If you’re in a long term committed relationship, marriage shouldn’t be a factor. Not all of us have that option.

    Isn’t marriage a recognition of a long-term committed relationship?

    Not everyone can get married of course, but if you can and you want to be in a long-term committed relationship, this strikes me as the point to get married. Otherwise, it’s hard to distinguish between those who have a long-term committed relationship and those who have a long-term uncommitted relationship.

    Also, your comment about not having children out of wedlock is kind of out of place, there are plenty of children raised by single parents, whether due to divorce or birth out of wedlock, and most of them are just fine.

    Yes, but that doesn’t mean that their parents should risk loading themselves down with extra paperwork, legal costs, and what not. Perhaps your kids will be just fine as adults if they miss out on holidays for a few years because you were paying off the lawyers’ fees, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no cost to you. I don’t think that the moment you have kids the only thing that matters in your life is how the kids do as adults, and it doesn’t matter what the parents go through.

    Of course, divorce can be a really nasty situation, particularly if one partner is a con artist. The courts can’t protect us from all the consequences of our or our partners’ decisions. But still if you can take some simple steps to reduce legal costs in the event of a breakdown, at least if your partner is a reasonable sort, why not?

  84. Riki says:

    Julie, you wrap your argument against same-sex marriage in pretty paper and talk about couples having the same rights and privileges but calling it “something else”. You talk about your “gut” feeling that it’s wrong and how a same-sex relationship is somehow lesser than a relationship between a man and a woman.

    Use all the respectful and flowery language you want, but your opinion is still offensive and xenophobic and homophobic and wrong. Why should YOUR gut feeling allow you to make a value judgment on other people? What specifically makes a same-sex relationship lesser? The inability to produce children “naturally”? Is that it? Because that’s a pretty weak argument.

    I wish you could, for just one day, experience the kind of judgment and discrimination same-sex couples (or GLBT people in general) experience on a regular basis. Flowery pro-rights language or not, you are actively discriminating against a group of people and that’s not ok in my book.

  85. Kevin says:

    @InterestedReader:

    “I have spoken to people who do not believe that non whites are equal to whites. They firmly believe that the races are different on a genetic level”

    Uhm… the races ARE different on a genetic level. That’s why black people have black babies, and white people have white babies. It’s genetics.

    There are all sorts of genetic differences. For example, you will never see a black person with naturally blond hair. It is genetically impossible.

    Have we really gone so far down the rainbows-and-unicorns “we’re-all-the-same” path that we can’t even recognize actual scientific facts anymore?

  86. Dolores Bittleman says:

    An important feature of marriage is its value in old age. Spouses can nurse each other in need. But also can make serious health care decisions.

    While ‘roomates’ can care for ill partners, it’s the legal ramifications at the end of life that kick in. That’s where you have to be married.

    I speak from experience.

  87. Interested Reader says:

    Kevin – sorry I wasn’t clear. That’s not what I meant. I know there are genetics that make us different. What I meant were people who try and say that non whites are inferior because genetically they can’t be as smart or as moral or whatever as whites.

    Things like “oh black people aren’t good at business, they just can’t be smart enough.” Which, again is somethign I’ve heard.

    Julie- I’d like to point out one thing Marriage as equaling 1 man and 1 woman has not always been the standard in human society. A man having multiple wives was once the norm and that has changed for most parts of the world. You only have to look towards the Old Testament to see plenty examples of that.

  88. Kathryn says:

    I think that, while there is little functional difference in the day-to-day issues people face whether they are cohabitating or married, there is a big difference in how (or whether) long-term planning takes place.

    I have lived together, and I have been married. My personal experience is that people make different choices when – for both people – there is an expectation that their relationship is “until death” permanent, than they make when no such expectation exists. Those choices begin with the assumption that there is ONE future that both parties share, and that both parties are invested in and working toward the same future.

    Example: retirement. When you assume one joint retirement, you make completely different decisions than you would if you assumed that each person was simply “on his own” and would be funding himself to whatever degree he saw fit.

    I believe it’s those assumptions and choices that are the underlying difference between marriage and cohabitation.

    Is one superior to the other? That, for me, is a moral debate and not a financial debate.

  89. Angela says:

    Marriage is an opportunity for personal and financial growth that cohabitation does not provide. When I enter into a binding relationship there is a security that allows both my husband and I to make decisions that benefit the family unit as a whole that might be detremintal to one of us.

    For example if your spouse gets a promotion that is dependent on a long distance move. In a marriage you weigh out the pros and cons and make a choice that benefits the family as a whole. This may mean the family moves or it may mean the family stays put. Either choice will most likely negatively impact the earning potential of one spouse.

    Knowing the relationship is legally protected makes it easier to make the right choice. the choice that benefits the unit as a whole. If the relationship does not work out at some point in the future, that sacrafice on the part of one spouse can be financially compensated in the divorce.

    I would say that Trent is 100% right you can and probably should cohabitate to cut expenses even with someone you are not romantically involved with. I also agree that if you want to make decisions about work, housing, investments etc., with someone then enter into a legal relationship that spells out how assetts will be shared. That could be as easy as putting both names on the lease or setting up a trust that holds all assetts.

  90. Interested Reader says:

    Julie also it’s great that you made sure that your company has domestic partner benefits. BUT there are a lot of people who are opposed to that and those who want to do away with domestic partner benefits.

    For example my city passed a law granting domestic partner benefits. Then during election there were several people running for city officials position promising that the first thing they would do was get rid of the domestic partener benefits because that’s something only married couples should have. And marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

  91. Interested Reader says:

    To clarify – that would be giving the benefits to city employees.

  92. JackieBooks says:

    Sigh..oh Julie. Comparing two men marrying, or two women marrying, to a woman marrying a rollercoaster? Come on. You live in the dark ages. That is so offensive. You don’t have any more right to define marriage than the next person.

  93. JackieBooks says:

    I also don’t think it’s fair to compare homosexuality to incest. They are two very different things, but putting them all under umbrella as what you define as “sick” or whatever makes you uncomfortable is just not fair.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post Trent. Thanks!

  94. tentaculistic says:

    I just have to speak up – I’m so impressed by how politely this very controversial topic has been discussed, thank you fellow TSD readers! I get so sad over how rude and nasty people can get in the anonymity of the Internet, and I wanted to thank everyone in this discussion for keeping the discussion civil, while also not backing away from stating your opinions. Very sincerely, thanks for the civility!

  95. D says:

    “There are all sorts of genetic differences. For example, you will never see a black person with naturally blond hair. It is genetically impossible.”

    Not impossible, just rarer. The genes are there, but as blonde hair is recessive to brown hair, you rarely see it expressed. But you do see the occasional instance of red hair (not uncommon), and blonde hair (rarer), in blacks.

    http://www.mybrowneyedview.com/2007/11/check-out-natural-black-blondes.html

  96. Jen says:

    Julie, the thing is, none of these marriages you want to talk about – woman and woman, man and man, woman and rollercoaster, man and tree, WHATEVER – have ANY IMPACT on YOUR life. Does my parents’ marriage impact you? Nope, didn’t think so. And they’re man and woman. So really, it has to come down to, oh I just don’t like this, it’s icky, in MY OPINION. Your opinion should not dictate my best friend’s right to happiness and marriage, when him marrying his boyfriend won’t do anything to adversely effect your life, mine, or anyone else’s on the planet. Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re all EQUAL baby. not separate but equal. Equal. Period.

  97. SwingCheese says:

    Regarding incest and the gut feeling that it is icky: I once read somewhere (and I’ve been trying and trying to remember the source) that the reason for all the cautionary tales about incest (i.e., Oedipus Rex and the Oresteia) in ancient societies is precisely that it (parent/child incest, or cousin/cousin or aunt/nephew, uncle/niece incest) *doesn’t* inherently disgust us on a a gut level. That, in point of fact, when it comes to choosing sexual partners, back in the day (and I mean waaaaay back in the day), we as humans were just as inclined as the animals to sleep with close family members, but as it was very detrimental to the offspring of these unions, cultural taboos sprang up around it. And thus, we have all sorts of cautionary tales and a culture that has placed such a strict taboo on it, to the point where we just “feel” in our gut that incest is disgusting, even though that wasn’t always the case. (I believe that this is Freud’s theory, but I’m not sure. It’s a disturbing theory, to my 20th century culture-steeped brain.)

  98. Mel says:

    @Kathryn
    I disagree that not being married necessarily means different assumptions are made. As in most things, sometimes it is right. I don’t believe however, that it’s true as a blanket statement. Sometimes, probably often, live-in relationships are ’til death do us part’

    Consider my parents: They were never married, I didn’t realise that until I was 14 years old. After living together about 25 years, my dad decided he didn’t like the country we lived in. He made the decision to move buy my mother didn’t want to so he left on his own. Nothing much changed, just I didn’t see him. He continued to refer to my Mum as his ‘wife’ (for simplicity), and me, my mum and sisters visited regularly. When he had a stroke, my mum was who they contacted and who they asked for decisions on his care. She gained control of his (minimal) finances. Throughout his rehabilitation, she had final say in what happened to him until he was able to make those decisions for himself. When he was admitted to hospital again several years later, she again had final say despite being on the other side of the world. When he died shortly afterwards, there were 4 people it was important he talked to: me, my sisters and my mother.

    To me, introducing marriage into that situation would have only made it more complicated when he left – do they divorce? do they just ‘separate’ but stay legally married? Would the hospital have given such control to his ‘ex-wife’? I had many friends whose parents separated or divorced, and for every one it was more traumatic than this was to me. And that’s regardless of the relationship my friend had with their parents before or after.

    @everyone else
    It’s great to see such reasonable, rational debate on what’s usually a highly emotional topic! In my home country, we have had Civil Unions for a long time now. As well as homosexual couples, many heterosexual couples have entered in to them (including several of my friends). As far as I know, the only difference is in the name – almost all legal rights are equal (C.U. does not automatically change a will, and C.U. couples cannot yet adopt). Personally, I think marriage should be legal between “2 consenting adults” rather than “1 man and 1 woman”. It is not and cannot be a moral issue, because morals in this respect are not universal.

  99. Lisa says:

    A dear friend’s mother lived with her common-law husband for years, but never got around to legally tying the knot. He was tragically killed in a car accident a couple of years ago, and she did not get the benefits of his Coast Guard retirement she would have had they been married. It’s something that has caused her great problems. Trent is right. (As usual! ;)

  100. Borealis says:

    Interesting how most of the commentators on the Simple Dollar are disproportionately from a small subset of the American public. I wonder what about the Simple Dollar draws from that demographic?

  101. Courtney20 says:

    @ Julie – I find it ironic that you quote “Civil rights should be based on hummanity…those things which are immutable and unchangeable. (i.e. race, physical disability) They should not be based on preferences, habits, or behaviours.” Because I’m guessing that your opinions are formed from a religious background, which is protected by civil rights laws despite the fact that you CHOSE it.

  102. Stephanie says:

    @#30 Johnathan – I understand what you are saying, but you are missing my point. I have no issues with people choosing to be together forever, but with or without the documentation or the ceremony, you still have to choose it every day and every year. The piece of paper is meaningless. Marriage used to be a transfer of property (the woman and the land, etc), it used to be the only way women could survive, given that we could not be educated, vote, or work. Birth control is a very recent invention, so it used to be that women needed the marriage to be able to take care of their children, as if she were unmarried, often the father would deny paternity. Not to mention, that back in the day ‘forever’ was much less time. The 14 year old who was forced to marry the 40 year old may only have had to endure him for 10 years or so.

    What I am saying, is that a marriage is now an issue of paperwork. If that paperwork is the only thing keeping you in the relationship, what a sad, sad life you are in for. If you really are committed forever(!!), then the paperwork is unnecessary. We have birth control, DNA tests, and education & employment for women (someday we will have equal pay!!), child support, etc. So marriage, to me, is outdated. I would prefer a system where all citizens are able to form domestic partnerships with whomever they live with (be it parents or friends or a SO), and marriage can live on in the church.

    Also, Johnathan – your tone was pretty snippy. If marriage was really a choice (with conviction) to be together ‘forever!!,’ the divorce rate wouldn’t be so high. It is a nice little soapbox you are on, but the statistics don’t bear it out. Relationships change. Relationships end. If we could all accept that and build our legal system around reality instead of this fantasy that was started ages ago, I believe it would be a much better system. And couples could still be together forever if that was what they wanted.

  103. Interested Reader says:

    I wanted to make one more comment. I was reading an opinion piece by a woman about what it’s like to be married in one place and not in the other. And also how being married has given her relationship more legitimacy in the eyes of other people.

    She talked about how prior to marrying, her mother would struggle about how to refer to her daughther’s wife. She coudln’t say “wife” becuase they weren’t really married, she couldn’t say “Daughter in law” and her mother struggled with how to refer to their relationship to other people. Someone would ask if she had children and if they were married. Technically, her daughter is married but she’s in a long term committed relationship and they would get married if they could.

    It’s a mouthful her mother didn’t say. But how else can you really describe the relationship.

    Once the woman was married it made things simple.
    “My daughter in law” “my daugther’s wife”. “Yes I hhave children, my daughter is married.” Stuff like that.

    The woman lives in DC and was married in DC. But there are states with laws that do not recognize same sex marriage. So she’s not married in every state. And there’s no protection that she and her wife will be acknowledged or treated as a married coouple. She may have visitiaton rights in a hospital but that doesn’t mean the hospital staff will treat her the same way as if she had a husband.

  104. Adam P says:

    Internet 1, Julie 0

  105. Des says:

    Julie – I am going to make a big assumption that you are evangelical. If that is wrong, please accept my apologies, but I spend a lot of time with evangelicals and your arguments are the same as theirs.

    In our social circle (fundamental churches) I think the the issue of gay marriage itself is a red herring. People say that gay marriage is “ruining” the institution, but that isn’t so. What is ruining and degrading the institution of marriage is *divorce*. We like to make a big deal out of gay marriage because it means we don’t have to look at the plank in our own eye – namely that the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is equal to that of the general population (in 2009 it was actually higher). We need to fix this FIRST before we start going around telling people that they should or shouldn’t marry. That is the BIBLICAL way to do things (take the plank from your won eye so that you may see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s)

    I do agree that there should be civil unions separate from marriages, but the dividing line should not be sexuality, it should be along the lines of church and state. Civil Unions should be legally defining term, and each religious group can define the socially charged term “marriage” for themselves.

  106. Kathryn says:

    “Internet 1, Julie 0″

    Hardly. It’s impossible to get others to stop judging you by judging them. The moment people get snarky and self-righteous they alienate the other person; and if what they really want is to get others to adopt a new way of thinking, they end up losing the real fight.

    Joanna has the right idea by encouraging open conversation.

  107. Interested Reader says:

    My longer comment is in moderation but I want to point out that Marriage being 1 man and 1 woman has not always been the norm. There is plenty of people today and in the past who have practiced plural marraige.

    Also there have been marriages of close relatives through out dynassties and ruling families throughout the world at various times in history.

  108. When our friends ask us why we’re getting married so young, I bring up these same arguments. Financially/economically, it makes more sense than for us to just continue to cohabitate. We’re emotionally ready, we’ve been together for almost 4 years. Just waiting until we’re at a more socially acceptable age is not worth it.

  109. Tom says:

    “Also, it is important to note that you can only cover domestic partners that are same sex on a tax free basis.”

    My company offers DPB’s, but I was under the impression that they were taxable regardless of the relationship being male-male, male-female, or female-female. I’m not in CA though.

    I like that the first benefit to being married is.. you can get a divorce! But I know the point was that both parties have to comply with a legal arbitration process, making it “fair”

    Being married doesn’t automatically qualify you for better/cheaper health insurance. At my company, if you and your spouse work here, it’s cheaper to get two individual policies than ind.+spouse. I have a coworker who was kicked off his wife’s insurance because he’s offered viable insurance here (ie, the wife’s employer was cutting costs by removing spouses who could get insurance elsewhere).

  110. SonoranGirl says:

    My partner and I, even though we are one man and one woman, don’t want to get married. We both have a lot of conflicting emotions about marriage & we decided we don’t want to taint our stable, happy, permanent commitment to each other by tying it to an institution that we don’t respect.

    I know we got here voluntarily, but we are now in the position of a gay couple that can’t have their union recognized, no health care for him, etc.

    I would really like to see the separation of church and state when it comes to the institution of marriage. Marriage wouldn’t be used at all in legal commitments (everyone would sign for a civil union as far as the state is concerned) and people who have conservative biblical beliefs about marriage being a sacred institution can have marriage exist only in the church (where it ought to belong anyway if their beliefs are consistent), and then they don’t have to be bigoted and discriminatory towards gay people, or others, like me, who don’t believe as they do, because their institution is protected.

  111. Joanna says:

    My company offers domestic partner benefits as well, and that term can be applied to same sex and opposite sex couples with certain rules:

    1. voluntary relationship
    2. same residence for 18mos.
    3. not related by blood or marriage to a degree which would prohibit marriage in your state.
    4. Both at least 18.
    5. Mentally competent to consent to partnership
    6. Not currently married to anyone else, or had another domestic partner in past 18mos.
    7. Not in relationship only for insurance.
    8. Financially interdependant, and can show proof in the form of bank statements, wills, lease/mortgage in joint name.

    The requirements for Domestic Partner benefits are actually much more strict than marriage. You don’t have to prove you keep your money together, or haven’t been married to another person in the past 18 months for these benefits…

  112. Joanna says:

    Not to mention you don’t have to have lived together for 18 months before getting benefits for your spouse. In fact, many people are still assumed to live separately until the day they marry. This would be a ridiculous requirement if applied to marriage, and shouldn’t be applied to domestic partnerships either.

  113. New Reader says:

    Not sure if it’s due to tax laws or not (I live in Oregon), but my husband and I married when we realized that his employer’s domestic partnership benefits only apply to same-sex relationships. We weren’t about to feel discriminated against when we have the option to marry and same-sex couples don’t. We’d been living together, and getting married allowed me to drop my $400/mo. health insurance premium (I’m self-employed). Our wedding was practically free, performed in our living room by a friend who got ordained online the day before. And people say that same-sex marriage is damaging to “traditional” marriage?! I think my marriage looks pretty shady! ;)

  114. Ginger says:

    Also, it is important to note that you can only cover domestic partners that are same sex on a tax free basis. – That is not true at all. If there is domestic partner health benefits (same sex or opposite sex) they are taxable. Also, if you are a domestic partnership, you may not use money in a HSA or FSA for the other partner.

  115. SLCCOM says:

    I, too, am impressed by the civility of this discussion and extend my complements to all involved. Personally, unless I am contemplating a sexual relationship with someone, I find their genetic and hormonal interest in which ever gender(s) to be irrelevant. What I care about is if you are a good person who does not knowingly and deliberately try to make the lives of others miserable. I don’t care what your race or gender is, your educational level, your religion, whether or not you are raising children, or whether or not you are married, divorced, in a committed relationship, or in a series of “committed relationships.”

    Do the right thing, live by the Golden Rule, treat others with respect, that’s all I ask for. Again, my complements to you all for the respectful and informative discussion!

  116. Petunia says:

    Speaking for myself, I believe there are no compelling financial reasons to marry and plan to never do so again.

  117. rosa rugosa says:

    Dave & I have been married for 26 years, and we have been in love since we were pre-teens. My “gut” tells me that some same-sex couples we know are just like us, superficial differences aside. A female couple we know just went through the tragedy of one partner dying a young and awful death, and the other partner caring for her until the bitter end. These woman were married in every true sense of the word, and I cannot imagine anyone seeing it differently (perhaps due to my lack of imagination). But they were everything that marriage SHOULD be about, but so often is not. I’ve seen so many straight couples go through brief, disposable marriages. It’s actually touching that gays would want “marriage” and not something new and better, since straight couples have done such an incredible job of devaluing the institution.

  118. saigon kick says:

    The main problem here is both Religious groups and the US Government do not see a clear barrier or separation between Religious marriage and the legal contract that is marriage on the government level.

    The problem is that all institutions use the same term Marriage, while Modern Christians, Jews, and Muslims don’t even share the same definition.

    Try going to a priest or pastor and asked to have a marriage preformed, but with no legal marriage or marriage license. They will tell you a license is part of marriage.

    The government then interferes with the religious definition of marriage. For example making polygamy illegal, when they don’t prosecute a man for living with multiple women and getting them pregnant due to irresponsibility.
    Which child will be better off the product of a loving polygamous relationship or the one with an irresponsible father?
    Should the government charge an 18 year old with statutory rape if he admits he’s the father of a child and decides to do the right thing by marrying the woman and caring for his daughter. Him being a sex offender means he will never be able to locate his family in a safe neighborhood due to something that many cultures and religions outside of our cultural influence would accept.

    The concept of requiring a marriage license in the first place to preform a basic tenant of a persons faith. Common law marriage used to be the law of the land not that long ago before the attempts to end biracial marriage.
    Homosexuals demanding marriage don’t see a problem and see themselves as discriminated against.

    What we really need is to put a clear divide between Church and State and change the term for the agreement on the federal level so Religious people don’t feel like their religious terms are being forcibly redefined at gun point. Then if it’s no longer Marriage a Religious institution people can choose whether or not they want to comply to gain the benefits.

  119. Parisian Thinker says:

    Uncertainty is the rule in the USA. All of the concerns and issues regarding marriage are resolved in France with absolute certainty. How about shopping for a new culture and a new country? It would be so much easier!

    Not married but just cohabiting? No problem! You are still covered for medical insurance. Want not to marry, but just be a “partner”? No problem! You can still inherit as though you were married.

    Children receive free medical care through age 26. Childcare is free. All universities are free. Public transportation makes a car needless. All this for the same amount of taxes paid in the USA where you receive nothing.

    Working and saving money in USD’s? What’s the value of that?
    Little to nothing.

  120. Nomad says:

    Sigh… I can assure Julie my sexual *preference* is heterosexual. Who on earth wakes up one morning and thinks to themselves “I’d like to be a part of a small, persecuted group who is denied basic rights and at times may even fear for their lives?” Yeah.

    This is one of the politest discussions I have seen on this topic, you guys rule. For me, it’s clear the framing of the argument makes all the difference. Legal, financial … no problem. Wait, they can’t make a baby in the back seat of a car?? No way! You know, we really don’t need to increase population at this point (which is why most of the “rules” were established in ancient times).

    I’m resigned to “choosing” a “gay lifestyle” over a marriage to someone I don’t love for appearances. Not fair to them, me, or any kids that would come out of the union. But as it stands now it sucks what could happen to my kids, property, and other protections if something were to go wrong. And despite thousands of dollars in legal and financial planning you can’t replicate everything.

  121. Johanna says:

    First of all, I find it so heartening that so many people have chimed in here in favor of same-sex marriage. It seems like in a really short time, equal marriage rights have gone from being a fringe position to a thoroughly mainstream one, and that’s something to feel good about.

    Personally, I think that sisters marrying their brothers is icky, and people marrying roller coasters is just stupid – but committed, loving same-sex couples *not* being allowed to marry is a moral outrage. So even if the slippery-slope argument is valid (and I don’t grant that it is), I’d rather live in a world in which same-sex marriages and human-rollercoaster marriages are both allowed than one in which both are forbidden. (And since I have no desire to marry either another woman or a roller coaster, I don’t have a horse in this race.)

  122. rosa rugosa says:

    Johanna: Well said! Some people seem to worry that if you let one person marry a rollercoaster, then everyone will be clamoring to do it, which is seriously silly!

  123. I think one has to look at the totality of quality of marriage or cohabitation. There are people who would be more satisfied in marriage and others in cohabitation.

    In either situation, folks generally don’t look at it in just pure financial terms. We have to look at it in terms of the total and overall quality of life. Some may be happy in one situation while some in the other.

    There are people who live alone, paying more in rent and utilities but they are happy with their lives and their finances.

  124. Caz says:

    This is interesting but also mainly applicable to only US readers.

    Overseas (Australia) I am cohabiting and in a de-facto relationship but am not married. Health insurance is different here and employers don’t provide it. If we were to separate, we’d be entitled to most if not all provisions a divorced couple would have including monetary support, division of property etc. We are required to file taxes listing the other as a partner.

    In fact, the only downside would be if we made a stupid decision (such as only having one name on the lease -why not have both? actually, here it’s REQUIRED that all inhabitants are named on the lease)

    So while I understand the logic behind your arguments, they’re mainly applicable to US citizens who are governed by different laws of marriage than other countries are.

  125. Mistaa says:

    “Why on god’s earth would you get married?”
    Many people answer this question with
    “Just get a prenup and you are set”
    Ok…..
    Then my question is “If you can’t trust the person who is going to marry you and you require him or her to sign a prenup cause you make more money/ are the breakmaker/ etc, why in hell get married in the first place?”
    Prenup definitely is the answer for cautious couples in western cultures such as the United States where it has become the “norm” for marriage today. However, are those couples really in love in the first place if they need to sign a document which basically says if we split up you get jack shit?
    I’m not saying its a westernized trend for prenups since I see it happening in other nations as well, however, most divorces without prenups end up nasty anywhere in the world.
    I just don’t see the need to get married.
    Why risk everything? Some would say you should believe in fate… or you can’t measure love… you know when that person is the one…you can’t put a pricetag on for your soulmate.., blah blah blah
    Come on…its a load of crap
    I’m not saying you can’t fail in love, however, you will NEVER be sure if that person will stick by your side forever.
    Maybe i’m just too much of a realist, but I know for a fact marriage without a prenup is not the answer if you are the one bringing home the bacon.
    Lets face it.
    If you make good money and don’t need your spouse to support you, you would want to get a prenup before getting married. However, think about what I said earlier.
    Why waste your time getting married with a prenup if you can’t trust your spouse in the first place.

    MARRIAGE IS OVERRATED PEOPLE…..
    Don’t fall into the pitfalls and get screwed when you are 40….

  126. Mistaa says:

    @ Dolores Bittleman @ 6:56 am March 25th, 2011

    You stated that you will be in a better state when you are married at old age to nurse each other.

    Lets just say you are blessed to get that far with your husband which many people are not fortunate enough to last even 10 years.

    Look at the average divorce rate just in the US alone.

    Looking at a lot of old couples today, they don’t even have the strength to take care of themselves let alone their spouse.

    I am happy that you were able to cash in your 26 of marriage for support in times of trouble with your spouse, however, I don’t think it is worth the risk.
    What happens when you get married at 30 divorced at 40, debt up to your neck till you retire with no retirement money or plan due to child support, alimony and then end up sick at 60? Who is going to pay for you?

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