In Brief—A discussion of the recent Supreme Court decision on same–sex marriage, the opposition, contract law, the right to remain unmarried and some personal philosophy on the subject. It’s serious but definitely not boring.
The Inequality of Marriage—
Should people of the same sex have the same right as two heterosexual people to marry? Should those who choose to live together in a committed relationship free of marriage have the same benefits and responsibilities as those who marry? Should marriage/no marriage be governed by contract law alone or should religion be a necessary part of the union? These are a few of the questions that arise out of the issue.
A contract is generally defined as an agreement having a lawful object entered into voluntarily by two or more parties who have the capacity to enter into an agreement with the intent to create one or more legal obligations between them.
Marriage is considered to be a contract. It can be a simple, basic agreement by two people or it can set forth matters that bind the parties to certain actions including a period of time, whether children are contemplated, disposal and management of money, division of labor and others.
Lara Lillibridge wrote a good article on marriage as a contract in the Huffington Post in late 2013. I recommend you read it. It’s not long. CLICK on the highlighted area to do so.
The parties to the contract determine its content. Its purpose is to get the parties to consider the long-term consequences rather than just acting on raging hormones…although that will often be the case. The definition of a contract puts to rest the opponents’ ridiculous claim that the door is open for people to marry Elsie, the cow, or Rover, their dog. Aw, come on!
Same-Sex Marriage Wins One—
In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that marriage is open to all Americans regardless of sex. That ruling is long overdue and should have been unanimous. The conservative dissenters still cling to outworn tradition.
Science has for years recognized that all humans fall somewhere on a spectrum of sexual identity. Only a few are wholly one sex or the other. The majority of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Naturally, there will be opposition based on tradition just as there was (and still is) opposition to humans of different skin colors marrying. That holding was long overdue, too.
It’s past time for us to drop the designation of ”gay” and recognize that all humans fall somewhere on that sexual spectrum. Let’s move on. Sure, there will be opposition by the ignorant, but their opposition doesn’t hold water… except to the conservatives on the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion making same-sex marriage a fundamental constitutional right, wrote paeans to marriage. Great! It’s about time that all Americans can love and marry whom they want…but what about those who choose not to marry?
Civil Partnerships Draw the Short Straw—
A substantial number of Americans have what is commonly called a Civil Partnership. Put more clearly, they have chosen to live in a close relationship that is not sanctioned by the state. They must pay higher taxes, they usually can’t legally adopt a child, they may not even get to visit their sick partner in the hospital. There are numerous really serious rights that they are denied that are routinely granted to married couples. The partial answer is to have a signed contract or even a will. Get that: a will!
The injustice is obvious. What must now be done is to grant those Americans in a Civil Partnership the same rights—ALL the same rights—that are granted to married couples. Their relationship deserves the same praise and recognition Justice Kennedy lavished on marriage.
Now here’s the catch that needs to be addressed. Since marriage is a contract that is duly registered in a government office, those Americans in Civil Partnerships must also have a valid contract between the parties that is registered in a government office. If it is, then the parties will have precisely the same contractual rights and duties that a married couple has. If they do not have such a contract, then the parties must expect to face discrimination.
Face it, governments are what civilized societies have put in place to regulate human affairs. If some members of that society choose to ignore (or forget) the rules, then there is a cost to be paid. They have a choice: a contract registered with the government or no contract. All legal contracts, like that of marriage, should be registered and have the force of the government behind them.
Of course, contracts are often broken. In the marriage contract, the breach results in divorce. There are money problems, infidelity, boredom, abuse, children and so on, but damages of one sort or another are assessed. That’s why both marriage and Civil Partnerships require a signed contract. At least the parties to the contract may appreciate the realities of ”permanence.” They’ll look before they leap.
I implore those who are unmarried but feel they’re in a permanent relationship to at least have a will that expresses how they want their property to be distributed. Age does’t matter.
Assuming that all sane Americans expect to be treated equally, it’s time to treat Civil Partnerships in the same way as marriage is treated. Justice Kennedy’s words must apply to Civil Partnerships as well as marriage. Contact your representative today and tell your young friends to make this happen!