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Government out of marriage

Someone asked in a friends-locked post what people meant by "get the government out of marriage" (a position I agree with, although until it happens I will continue to be pleased when governments allow more kinds of people to marry).


Government is "in" marriage because marriage is a contract with respect to property; and secondarily because marriage is seen as a privileged state: married people are considered more mainstream socially acceptable than unmarried people, and governments like to keep track of who's acceptable and who isn't.

When I say "government out of marriage," I mean stuff like:

(a) any adults ought to be able to write a contract with any other adults specifying how they will behave toward each other with respect to property, association, inheritance, and so on; and governments shouldn't be able to withhold such a contract from specific groups of people

(b) while many people will want a standard contract with many of the provisions that marriage currently has, governments should not be able to retroactively and unilaterally change that contract, the way they currently can with marriage

(c) children's and parents' rights should not be influenced by legal marriage or lack thereof; all competent adults who want to should be able to adopt and raise children

(d) rights of association and inheritance should not be influenced by legal marriage or lack thereof. For example: people should be able to visit their associated people in hospitals and make medical decisions for their associated people and inherit from their associated people without marriages or blood relationships trumping their rights. People should be able to assign their government benefits to anyone they wish and not just spouses. People should not lose or gain benefits as a result of marriage or lack thereof (e.g., health insurance, social security benefits). No one should be expected to provide medical services for chronically ill family members without compensation.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
dawnd
Feb. 24th, 2004 04:49 pm (UTC)
Excellent summation. Thank you.
therealjae
Feb. 25th, 2004 05:03 am (UTC)
Exactly right. I'll be pointing people here.

-J
pir_anha
Feb. 25th, 2004 09:27 am (UTC)
Re: Government out of marriage
oh, very well said!
epi_lj
Feb. 25th, 2004 09:53 am (UTC)
The only part that seems dicey to me is the subsection of (d) about benefits. I find it unreasonable to ask companies, for example, to be willing to pay benefits to whomever an individual decides to specify.

Of course, if we go for a holistic solution, we could just provide truly comprehensive health care to everybody, and the issue goes away.
firecat
Feb. 25th, 2004 10:03 am (UTC)
I find it unreasonable to ask companies, for example, to be willing to pay benefits to whomever an individual decides to specify.

Why?
epi_lj
Feb. 25th, 2004 10:24 am (UTC)
It seems to be asking them to do something entirely out of the goodness of their hearts which may have no direct benefit for them at all. Having someone's spouse incapacitated will impact their work performance and directly impact the life of the employee. Also, if they have a stay-at-home spouse, then having that person be covered by benefits enables them to make that choice better, which can greatly enhance the person's happiness and thus their effectiveness in their job. Also, the employee is part of the team, so even things which are intangible but directly benefit the employee are fine.

Having them be able to name other people who fulfill a similar role in their life also seems to be a good thing, but if you allow them to name anybody, what's to stop them from just assigning people who don't fulfill that role, if they're not already using their benefits otherwise? For example, if someone is single and not in any sort of resource-sharing or emotionally bonded relationship at all (including family), they could just sign up friends, not because they care that much, but because "Why let it go to waste?" Alternately, the enterprising could even accept moderate payment from complete strangers in order to assign benefits.

It seems like it would be really open to abuse.

Now, if it doesn't affect the company's premiums one way or the other, then maybe that's fine, but if it does, asking them to pay extra to cover people who they're not guaranteed are actually in any way a part of the person's life or a major impacting factor in the person's life doesn't seem reasonable.
firecat
Feb. 25th, 2004 11:01 am (UTC)
I see. You're talking about health care. I'm also talking about stuff like assigning your life insurance and retirement fund benefits. Currently, if you're married, it can be difficult to assign these benefits to someone other than your spouse. This affects married people more than unmarried people (although blood family could also sue to collect their benefits, and might sometimes win), but it's a way the system automatically treats married and partnered-in-other-ways folks differently, which I think should not happn).

As for health care, the ideal solution is for health care to be guaranteed by the government on an individual basis and not a family basis, so that employers are out of it altogether. (To be able only to get affordable health insurance if you are working is absurd.)

But if health benefits must be provided by employers, then I think it's reasonable for an employer to agree to provide health benefits in packages only to people who verify in some manner that they are family, perhaps by signing a contract to that effect. (A number of US companies already do this.)

What I think is unreasonable is for employers to legally be able to get away with only providing health benefits to married partners, since some people can't marry those they love and want to build a family with, and so there are family ties other than marriage that can affect someone's job performance.
epi_lj
Feb. 25th, 2004 11:08 am (UTC)
I agree that having a comprehensive public health care system is the best solution to the health care angle. Even in Canada, we don't really have that. I mean, we do have health care available to everyone, but there are a number of things that it doesn't cover that most people would nonetheless consider necessary: Prescriptions, dental care, glasses, etc.

I think that asking people to verify that they are family would be good. Some sort of system for limiting the benefits from being assigned to just *anyone*, at least. Some people might still abuse the system, I imagine, but people probably abuse it now.

Even in things like life insurance and so on, I think *some* way to make the person responsible for having some sort of connection to the person they want to assign benefits to is required, because you run into the same situation: If you've got nobody you want to assign it to, you could sell it off, assign it to people who aren't really part of your family, etc.

I agree that there needs to be a way to assign such things to people other than family, but I'm not sure that just having a blank where people can write down whoever they want is rigorous enough, is I guess what I'm saying.
firecat
Feb. 25th, 2004 11:29 am (UTC)
Even in things like life insurance and so on, I think *some* way to make the person responsible for having some sort of connection to the person they want to assign benefits to is required, because you run into the same situation: If you've got nobody you want to assign it to, you could sell it off, assign it to people who aren't really part of your family, etc.

Um, that makes no sense. Exactly who the beneficiary is of your life insurance doesn't affect the employer or insurer financially. In the US you currently can assign it to whomever you want, unless you're married. There's not much incentive for the kind of abuse you speak of, because the beneficiary only gets the money if you're dead, and no benefit is paid for death by suicide.

I'm not sure that just having a blank where people can write down whoever they want is rigorous enough, is I guess what I'm saying.

Well, I guess I can see where you got the idea that I was saying "have a blank where people can write down whoever they want," but that's not what I was saying. In the rest of my post, I repeatedly said "people and their associated people" and made reference to contracts. I assumed it would be obvious that I was talking about that sort of arrangement in my final paragraph, too.

My point is that married people shouldn't be treated differently, legally speaking, from people who are associated in ways other than being married.
epi_lj
Feb. 25th, 2004 11:47 am (UTC)
I could agree with the summation in the last paragraph.

I suppose in terms of life insurance supplied by employers, you're right that it wouldn't make sense, which is what we were talking about. I was thinking somehow of something that would pay off whenever you die, but employer-provided insurances tend to expire when you retire, I imagine.
hobbitbabe
Feb. 26th, 2004 05:42 am (UTC)
How about Canada Pension survivor's benefit?
epi_lj
Feb. 26th, 2004 06:18 am (UTC)
Good point. I imagine that that just goes to a spouse at the moment?
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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