Why marry?18 May 2004
Why Would a Progressive Gay Couple Marry? Some great commentary by Betsy Leondar-Wright on the implications of gay marriage:
There is a cult of coupledom in this country, and we are not true believers. Most happy people have more than one person they can turn to for support, despite what pop songs say. And in the face of President Bush’s $1.5 billion proposal to encourage low-income people to marry, it’s important to say that marriage is not a cure-all for poverty, especially with so many men unemployed or in jail. Women need the option of living independently, via family wages and a welfare safety net. Going back to some imagined “good old days,” with husband breadwinners and unpaid wives who cared for children and elderly and disabled family members without need for government assistance, is not a realistic social policy. “Marriage promotion” is a futile attempt to privatize more human services into families. Gay activists have sometimes played into this right-wing agenda by extolling marriage as the most important building block of society.
We, like other committed couples, will be there for each other in disability, unemployment and old age as best we can. That doesn’t eliminate the need for public safety nets like Social Security and Medicaid. Once we marry, Gail will be able to join my employer’s group health plan. But rationing health care according to family status and employment is absurd. Though it’s great that a few more couples will get benefits thanks to gay marriage, everyone should get health care just by being human.
But not all benefits associated with marriage are absurd. A committed life partnership should guarantee hospital visitation, not testifying against each other, automatic health care proxy, survivor retirement benefits, immigration rights, second-parent adoption rights, and presumed and untaxed inheritance. There’s no reason but homophobia to deny these to same-sex couples. Across the United States and around the world, most still can’t have them.