Monday, June 29, 2015

Granting Marital Rights Without Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

Lots of interesting things are happening on FaceBook these days, at least within the realm of reactions and discussions vis-à-vis the United States Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage. A friend shared her friend's thinking on the subject, noting that these thoughts echoed her own sentiments:
I'm not against all people in this country having equal access to insurance, retirement, property rights, inheritance, and all that. In fact, I'm all for it. What I am NOT for is having all of those rights and privileges tied to the definition of marriage. A definition which no government has the authority to change, since no government was responsible for instituting it.
I thought this an interesting statement because it got me thinking about how spousal rights would be granted to non-spouses. There are civil partnerships or common law marriages, but I don't know if those grant the same level of rights that full-on legal marriage would provide; these rights might differ from state to state, and I'm not entirely sure whether each state even has the option of civil partnerships or endorses common law marriage. Marriage within the confines of a religious establishment is usually legal, although there are exceptions; polygamists, for example, tend to have multiple wives, although one is only legally married to one wife at a time.

My friend noted that she believed that marriage should never have become part of the legal system, but I wonder if that means that even heterosexual marriages should not have become part of the legal system. It has, however, become part of that legal system. I'm sure there are people out there who call themselves "married" without actually being legally married, but they're not granted the same rights as legally married couples.

For many, marriage is so intrinsically tied with religion that the religious definition of marriage is the important one. I can't argue that; I was married in a Catholic church, and I wouldn't have considered my own marriage valid unless I had done that, but I know others feel differently. (In a previous blog post, I worked my way through how we define the validity of marriage.)

So this comes back to how we might grant spousal rights to couples without their being married. I like this question; it gives me something to think about. I certainly have no background in law so I don't know if there's a way to grant those rights without having legalized same-sex marriage.

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