So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

08 February, 2007

Makes the World Blind

So I was talking (well, mostly observing a conversation with and occasionally putting in a comment around the edges) with one of those crazed ideological ... people ... who wants to abolish marriage.

This was, I thought, one of the saner crazed ideologues, one who responded to the fact that people will have social rituals that lead to the recognition of their partnerships whether or not they're allowed to call them "marriage" -- that being, y'know, the word for that sort of thing -- with, "Well, yes, that's acceptable to my crazed ideology."

Someone pointed out that most of the benefits of marriage can be accomplished with contract law. This is, in fact, the case; the good folks at The Alternatives to Marriage Project have done much of the research for the United States at least, and have gone in more detail than I care to do at the moment.

I, and at least one other person, pointed out that access to the resources to do this is a matter of privilege: one needs to know that it is possible, one needs to know at least somewhat what is necessary, and one needs to be able to afford a lawyer to put together the contracts -- a sufficiently skilled lawyer to make those contracts sound enough that they might survive the challenges from hostile family members, at that, if hostile family members are likely to be a factor.

I used to work as the secretary of a lawyer who did a lot of estate planning work. Just the very basic stuff to assemble a skeletal facsimile of marriage rights -- will, health care authorisations, power of attorney -- probably ran for most clients a couple hundred dollars. And that's without going into complex things, just the boilerplate, not including the people who did trusts or similar foofaraw.

I can't recall off the top of my head what it cost me to get married, but I think it was $80 and a doctor's appointment which would have been covered under the local free care if I hadn't had the resources to do it myself. $30 to file the paperwork, $50 for the JP who did house calls (which we probably could have done without, too). And for that not only do I get the effects of a basic will, health care authorisation, power of attorney, but also the tax breaks as a household, the assurance of security of custody of as-yet-hypothetical children, the knowledge that we can't be excluded from each other's hospital rooms or, Anpu forbid, funerals ...

So I'm thinking of this a bit while watching this conversation, and get a private response to my comment about the expense of assembling such thing, which went, basically:

"Well, that's why we have a social system here in Europe."

Oh, a social system.

A social system will keep hostile family members from throwing people who have no legal relationship to their partner out of hospitals or funerals. Will make sure they have the ability to make legal decisions for the people they live with, love, and care for, even over the wishes of blood relatives. Will make sure they don't get thrown out of the apartment in which the title and property were in the name of the higher-income partner because, hey, we're young, we'll be together for twenty years at least, we have time to make a will to make up for the fact that we can't get legally married.

A social system will make sure everyone knows what legal contract work they need to put together to assemble the skeleton of a marriage.

A social system will make sure everyone can afford a lawyer.

A social system does this.

If we here in the United States had a social system, not only would the poor be fed, housed, and have health care, but everyone would be able to generate legal documents with no more hassle than a three-day waiting period, a syphilis test, and an official to sign off on your will, your power of attorney, your health care proxy, your documentation of shared property, your funeral intents, your ....

Inside every Hthr is a little Skhmt.

I didn't write back.


Brooks Moses said...

Huh. Here in the US, even, we have a social system that does 90% of that.

It's called "the institution of marriage".

(And I can't really see how there can be a social system that does all this that's not effectively equivalent to "marriage". Which I think makes that whole argument annoyingly circular in the self-contradicting sort of way.)

Vieva said...

I really REALLY hate the idea of "saving" marriage for heterosexual couples.

Let everyone get married. Get rid of the half-assed system where living together gets people semi-benefits. Give everyone a level playing field and get rid of the halfway stuff.

I've never heard an argument against gay marriage that makes any kind of real sense. Let people who want to marry, marry. Get rid of the halfway cobbled together stuff that doesn't work anyway.

belledame222 said...

There is also this: none of those alternative contracts and so on solves the problem of transnational couples.

I'm just now on my way to a celebratory Chinese New Year's party at the house of friends who've been sweating under just that dilemma: two men, one U.S. born/citizen, one Hong Kong national, together for eight years. HK partner's last work visa ran out, and it looked like they were facing the options of 1) try and make a longshot run to Canada, overhauling their entire lives in the process 2) break up 3) have him stay and risk deportation, possibly worse 4) go to Hong Kong, and make -that- work...somehow, also see above re: overhaul entire lives.

as it happens, HK partner got a temporary reprieve with another job. it is, however, just that: temporary.

if they'd been hetero they'd never have faced any of this, even if they'd only been together for a fraction of that time.

so, longterm? sure, alternative to marriage, fine, whatever. but, the playing field needs to be level, as vieva says; and, people want to live their lives, NOW.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Yeah. It's one of those ...

... I've seen, I've had to work with, situations where people didn't have access to marriage. And ... here's where I run out of words, wave my hands, and say, "Augh." Because there's this span of pain there, the anguished railing against the injustice of things, of couples having to struggle to stay together lest the immigration people plague them and all the myriad other things, and I don't have a place to stand with this goddamn letter.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Possibly also this lever.