Monday, June 17, 2013

Yay! Same-sex marriage! Now let's get rid of marriage

Time to start being against marriage again! Obviously as an issue of equal rights, I'm for expanding marriage to cover same-sex couples, but marriage has never been something that I actually like. As a recognition of gay couples it's been great to see the tide shift, but as an article on Slate recently wrote, it has gone together with a greater appreciation for marriage among everyone. Which is a great pity, because no matter what everyone else thinks, I do want to destroy marriage.

Ok, so if a couple or other constellation of people want to make a promise to each other and refer to it as a marriage, that's great for them and I certainly hope no one would stop them. But what I do want is for the state to stop privileging marriages as the legally recognised relationship above all others. As the same-sex marriage debate has made clear, there are several rights and privileges exclusive to being married, and above all else, it's the easiest way of clarifying your relationship in a way that will be legally recognised. Which is great for the people who see close, monogamous, long-term relationships as the way they want to live their lives (and actually end up doing so; best laid plans don't always work out), but leaves the rest of us in a bit of a bind. I'm not going to list the myriad of ways that people might prefer their relationships that don't fit the narrow definition expected by legal marriage, as they should be obvious to most. Start with polyamory or shorter term relationships and work from there, if you want to.

It's a well-known phenomenon (at least in Sweden) that when couples have children they get married if they weren't before. Why? Because of security - it's a way to make sure that they have the benefits that married couples do and make clear the relationship in case of death or other forms of upheaval. To be in a clear situation in regards to the law, your potential children, and to your partner(s) is important to most everyone, though. Keeping marriage (and common-law marriage and limited cohabitation laws) as the main way to organise that, you disadvantage a lot of people who don't want to order their lives according to those principles.

So what I want is for the state to offer a simple way for people to organise their lives with others, whether it's based on a romantic connection, platonic, friend, or family relationship, so that you have an easy and widely accepted way to make clear your wishes in regards to property, medical decisions, and any of the other situations that come up when people share their lives. It should be as simple as possible to do and to change (though obviously we must allow that people have reasonable expectations once you've started sharing property, not to mention what happens when children are involved). Won't be easy to implement, but it's way past time to open up more possibilities for letting people organise their lives together with others.

Some people prefer getting the state out of people's relationships entirely and don't see a need for registries of that sort, but most people don't have the resources to spend researching legal arrangements that can help in relationships, and that's why I think the state can be helpful in providing a shorthand for that kind of thing.

I also have pretty strong opinions about marriage as an institution in general (antiquated, hetero-normative, unrealistic, patriarchal mess that it is), but I will leave that for another post. This one is simply trying to say: let people live the lives they want.

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