The Marriage Muddle

First off, I have nothing against marriage. I have been married to the same man for almost thirty years, but like religion, I think marriage ought to be a personal matter.

The Catholic Church considers a marriage between a man and a woman a sacrament. As far as I can tell, every religion known to people has some form or another for the ceremony through which a man and a woman commit themselves to each other.

I'm not sure why the government has to meddle in this arrangement but it's too late now. It's all very complicated. The government allows certain benefits to people are married and withholds them from single people.

I suppose for people who are not connected to a church, a mosque or a temple someone has to make the "marriage" official. Then why not just call what non-religious people do to make their commitment official a civil union?

So then, if you tie the knot in a church, a mosque or a temple, call it a marriage. If you say your I do's in front of a justice of the peace, call it a civil union.

If a church, a mosque or a temple chooses to deny same sex couples the privilege of being married in the eyes of the religious community, then so be it. It's their right. They are private clubs.

The government on the other hand is a public club. Everybody who is a citizen belongs. There is no choice. If you are born in this country you are a citizen, a member of the club, period. The government therefore should not deny civil unions to any two people who wish to enter into that kind of partnership with all of its privileges and obligations regardless of sexual orientation. That means a man and a woman would be allowed to have a civil union as well as same sex partners.

Now I've heard single people, who are not in a relationship with another person regardless of sexual orientation complain that they are left out of the privilege part of the whole thing. They feel penalized for being neither married nor partnered in a civil union.

That raises the question: should one person get bent out of shape when another person gets a better deal from the government and the insurance companies? Is one person's good fortune another's bad? Parents face this equity problem all the time. They want to treat their children fairly whenever possible.

What a mess we've made.

My daughter came up with a creative solution. It's so simple it's almost funny.

     Each citizen should be allowed to name one other adult with whom to share benefits regardless of marital status. This would allow an elderly parent and an adult child or adult siblings, for example, to qualify for the same health insurance benefits given to married couples.

But it's not just about insurance benefits. I know two women who've lived together for more than thirty years. They each have good jobs and adequate insurance benefits. They are not lesbians but they share many aspects of their lives. Recently, one of them was in critical condition following an automobile accident and the other was denied visitation rights in the hospital because she is not a relative. The injured person has no relatives in this part of the country. She therefore was allowed no visitors and when the time came, she had no one to help her analyze advice from her doctors and decide on a well-informed choice of action.

A lesbian woman told hospital authorities she was her partner's sister. Otherwise she would not have been allowed in the delivery room to support her partner during an emergency cesarean.

The whole idea of being able to name one other adult with whom to enter into a civil union regardless of sexual orientation or physical intimacy makes all the sense in the world. However, it will never be accepted by employers, insurance companies, and a government that's more interested in legislating morality than it is in treating all of its citizens in a fair and equal manner.

But who knows? As they say…"the times, they are a-changin' ".

 —M. LaCourt
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