The Last Social Safety Net

Between the comments on the ‘Rethinking Retirement’ post this morning, and the ‘Say What’/gay-marriage comments this evening… it occurs to me that for a lot of Americans, marriage has become the last social safety net. The heavy hand of tradition — I’m talking law, not religion, because the ‘religious’ component to marriage has been secondary to its political ramifications for at least the past several centuries — has ensured that a married couple have a boatload of “rights” and privileges not available outside that state-sanctioned status. And many of those rights, in our capitalist culture, involve money, or rather some form of ‘safety net’ to protect the partners inside a marriage from the dire effects of not having money. Married people get tax breaks just for being married, but these days the real bonus to signing the government’s paper is that married people can get covered under each other’s health plans, contribute to each other’s retirement programs, and inherit not only physical assets but “survivor rights” to each other’s pensions and Social Security.

Right now, I’m not employed, but we’re surviving because my Spousal Unit *is* — and praise goddess his company has a group insurance plan, because otherwise I’d probably be uninsurable, at least at a price we could afford. For a few years, he had been unemployed, and we got by on my (much lower) salary, my company-sponsored group health insurance, and by gutting our miniscule 401(k)s. (And I don’t even want to think about where we’d be if we had kids, of course. There have been very few days over the last 8 to 10 years when I didn’t think, ‘At least we don’t have kids to worry about.’) It seems like there are quite a few fellow BJ-ers who are in the same situation… making it, if only by the skin of our teeth, because we have the advantage of patching together our spotty part-time, contract-based, on-and-off “careers” plus the government- and corporate-sponsored tax / benefit advantages (limited as they are).

Given this situation, is it really that surprising that suddenly (/snark) gay couples are very publicly demanding access to the last American safety net?

64 replies
  1. 1
    Mayken says:

    Yey! Anne Laurie’s back!

    My husband and I are in the same situation as you and yours – I’m also potentially un-insurable so thank goddess for his group health benefits. Even still, paying through the nose for it plus the deductible and co-pays. (Aside: I hate being unemployed. It was fun for about 2 days, then I was done with not having a job. Weird, huh?) Except that we are trying to adopt and right now, too, so I am just paranoid about DH losing his job (really, really unlikely but still…)

    Yeah, cannot imagine why a same-sex couple would want to have the same rights that heterosexual couples take for granted given they already have most of the responsibilities.

  2. 2
    Jim-Bob says:

    Wow. Bingo!

    It’s never failed to amaze me that those who would do the most to elevate the institution of marriage by fighting against incredible opposition to secure it are most commonly derided (by the likes of Mark Sanford, for example) as the greatest threat facing it. On what planet?

    Brava, Anne.

  3. 3

    No kidding. After my wife walked out, and then eventually decided that she didn’t even want to try to patch it up, I said I wanted a divorce. She said that she thought we should stay married, because, otherwise, I (as in me, not her) have no way to get health insurance.

    That I had to even stop to reject the idea of staying married to the person who decided she didn’t want to live with me any more shows how fucked up this whole system is.

  4. 4
    Dream On says:

    Michael Jackson – The King of Pop – is dead. I have no other thoughts, though I really should.

    The media made me that way.

  5. 5
    Stevenovitch says:

    I really don’t want to be referred to as a BJer

  6. 6
    gex says:

    deleted – because what’s the fucking point?

  7. 7
    SGEW says:

    . . . for a lot of Americans, marriage has become the last social safety net.

    Hm. Perhaps. Anecdotally, quite a few friends and acquaintances of mine have gotten formally married recently, and health insurance coverage was definitely part of their modern day “pro and con” list, if you will. The material, fiduciary benefits for married partners has long been leaning heavily on the “pro” side (and health insurance is better than a dog, anyhow.)

    But, on the other hand, it seems a bit . . . callous? cynical? bloodlessly mercenary? . . . to put the fight for marriage equaltiy as merely (or reductively, or even substantially) about the social safety net.

    Sure, it’s a major influence. A catalyst even, seeing the tight times we’re in. And these material benefits are what the whole government-approved document is actually,legally about, after all.

    But a lot of people think it’s about love. And all that. Jes’ sayin.

  8. 8
    gex says:

    @JMN Is Now asiangrrlMN’s Official Stalker: The current healthcare system conveniently provides incentives for people to behave the way conservatives would like them to behave. Grateful to have any job at all, even if treated like an indentured servant? Check. Forced to honor the sanctity of marriage remain in marriages whether you like it or not? Check.

    No wonder they are so opposed to healthcare reform. It satisfies two of their three main constituent groups: fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. If they could get the current healthcare system to bomb Iran, it would be the perfect policy trifecta.

  9. 9

    The current healthcare system conveniently provides incentives for people to behave the way conservatives would like them to behave.

    I’m not sure that the health care system really provides incentives to hike the Appalachian Trail. Certainly, I’ve never had the opportunity.

    Edit: I suppose you mean how they want other people to behave, not how they want to behave themselves.

  10. 10
    SGEW says:

    Huh. Moderated. And I didn’t mention non-capitalist economic systems or footwear or anything to do with pills for one’s carnality or nothing. Perplexity.

  11. 11
    eastriver says:

    My wife and I have our own company. We pay for our insurance out-of-pocket. And we have a daughter. And are adopting another kid. It’s all very tight. But we’re getting by. I guess our situation isn’t as bad as alot of others’. So I guess I should stop typing.

  12. 12
    AkaDad says:

    The first sign that gay marriage is destroying civilization, is when you see dogs and cats eating each other’s food.

  13. 13
    Martin says:

    Spot on.

    We’ve been trying to do our own impression of the nuclear family – 2 kids, 1-ish income. We picked up about 25% of an income through my wife with a nice at-home job, just to try and close the gap between my public sector salary and the insane cost of living here in SoCal. Now, thanks to the GOP pigfuckers in this state, I’m facing an effective 13% pay cut (and still I am thankful to have a job) and a loss of benefits and higher cost of benefits on top of that. The 25% extra won’t cut it any more so I’m looking to add some kind of a second income.

    Keep in mind that I’m not an unskilled worker – I’m the 2nd most senior staff member in my organizational unit of 250 employees. I run half the damn place. I’ve been there for closing in on 2 decades, and I’m forced to look for some kind of supplemental income. I look at my coworkers, particularly the younger ones, and I don’t see how they possibly stand a chance (let alone the ones that I’m about to lay off). Median home prices are 20x the starting salary I pay. They’d need 3 spouses working full time at their same pay to qualify, or the cash equivalent of a medical school degree as a downpayment. Some are married, two incomes and in an apartment with roommates just trying to save enough money to buy a house. That’s insane.

    Without my wife and kids, I’d get by just fine. Without my wife but with my kids, I’d be 4 kinds of fucked – thankfully they are school age, but they get out of school 3.5 hours before I get out of work some days, and forget about summer. My wife, without me, I can’t even imagine. She’s got a M.A. but with a nearly nonexistent resume after 11 years of not working, I think she’d be thankful to find any kind of employment. Together we can make a reasonable run of this, but apart, we’d be doomed.

  14. 14
    Spiffy McBang says:

    If it were the legal rights gay couples were mostly or completely concerned with, the passage of equivalent rights in civil unions (and, obviously, recognition of those civil unions) would more or less solve the problem, no? Just from that it would seem that you’re downplaying the emotional impact of being married in the calculations by a fair degree.

    Also, anytime I see a phrase like “fellow BJ-ers” I’m reminded that deep down I’m still 13.

  15. 15
    Spiffy McBang says:

    “They’d need 3 spouses working full time at their same pay to qualify”

    The Mormons had the answer all along! Who knew?

  16. 16
    El Cruzado says:

    Well, I always say my or my wife’s health insurance copayment for any serious condition is $500, also known as the price of a plane ticket to Spain. Even though I haven’t lived there for five years I know they’d just fix me up anyway. Feeling bad about it still would beat feeling bankrupt.

    And I say that as a properly insured worker in capitalist paradise.

  17. 17
    parksideq says:

    @JMN Is Now asiangrrlMN’s Official Stalker: Have we really reached a point where people debate staying together for the kids insurance? If the current system isn’t practically killing people, it’s making them consider fates almost as bad as death. The mind, it boggles.

  18. 18
    sleestak says:

    Why do we still incentivize marriage at all? I have no understanding of this issue (I promise I’ll do some research), but I’ve always assumed that back in olden timey days it was to encourage population growth. That doesn’t seem like a good idea at the moment. I guess I can maybe understand the idea that 2 parents are better for kids, but if that’s the case, then shouldn’t the benefits be based on whether kids are involved, and not just about whether 2 people (of whichever gender) decide they love each other at some point in time? I’m single, and I’m just now starting to catch on that gay couples have been fighting for benefits that I don’t get, either! You sneaky bastards!

    Sorry if that was confusing. I can’t escape MJ coverage and it’s making me dumber.

  19. 19
    PhoenixRising says:

    There have been very few days over the last 8 to 10 years when I didn’t think, ‘At least we don’t have kids to worry about.’) It seems like there are quite a few fellow BJ-ers who are in the same situation

    Yeah, this is pretty much the reason that those of us who are gay, married and child-ed are Done Listening to Excuses.

    My kid has to settle for less of the tattered social safety net than her cousins–whose mothers are married to men–WHY exactly?

    Because otherwise Mark Sanford will hike the Andes, oh I mean visit bonita Buenos Aires, again, harder?

    Logic fail. The DOMA brief that suggested we deserve to pay extra taxes because some people don’t like us was not ‘hurtful’, it was malpractice.

  20. 20
    Brachiator says:

    Married people get tax breaks just for being married, but these days the real bonus to signing the government’s paper is that married people can get covered under each other’s health plans, contribute to each other’s retirement programs, and inherit not only physical assets but “survivor rights” to each other’s pensions and Social Security.

    A very interesting point. In the Anglo-American tradition, marriage (for the propertied classes) was never just about the special rights that married folk had vs unmarried people, but about making sure that accumulated assets and property could be transferred to legitimate offspring after the husband’s death. So, you could have the screwed up situation in which the eldest son got the house, the mother got a little income, and daughters and younger sons could just pound sand.

    Although the American system throws various credits and benefits at children, much of the system is built on the idea that a man and woman who married for love (not just for status and money) should have all kinds of nice benefits.

    Oddly enough, as some of this unravels and people demand changes that benefit individuals without respect to marital status, it is the kids who end up getting screwed the most. For example, in some middle class divorces, assets are sold so that a spouse can get his or her share of built up community assets, with only child support payments used for the children. Imagine if the children had independent advocates who could fight to ensure that they got a better deal independent of whatever their parents were fighting over.

  21. 21
    gex says:

    @Spiffy McBang:

    Finally! A straight person who has changed my mind. I no longer want full marriage rights. I want separate but equal now, because I know that my relationship with my girlfriend just doesn’t have the same emotional impact of good old fashioned man-chattel relationships.

  22. 22
    PhoenixRising says:

    @Spiffy McBang:

    If it were the legal rights gay couples were mostly or completely concerned with, the passage of equivalent rights in civil unions (and, obviously, recognition of those civil unions) would more or less solve the problem, no?

    Sure! You get to work on that.

    Let me know when you’ve overcome the interference of the 27% of Americans who want us to get nothing plus a fork in the eye;.at that time, I’ll stop what I’m doing to attain my civil right to be taxed like the guy next door.

    If you still think this is about how I feel, open and read your next benefits statement from the SSA, then think quietly.

  23. 23
    Skippy-san says:

    Marriage is a useless institution-except that no one has come up with a better way to raise kids.

    However you have hit the mark on why gays want marriage equality. Its not about sex or love-but old fashioned money.

  24. 24
    gex says:

    @gex: And now I’m pretty sure I misread the comment.

    Shut up, gex, and go to sleep. It’s been a long, hot day.

    Sorry I jumped on you for that Spiffy.

  25. 25
    john b says:

    i’m 26 and i’ve already had friends who got married because one had terminal cancer and the other had a good job with good insurance. it was such a bittersweet wedding. he died about a month later.

  26. 26
    BDeevDad says:

    @parksideq: If you read any boards with people with very sick kids or have chronic illnesses themselves then the answer is yes people stay together for insurance reasons or at least it is a large part of the divorce proceedings.

  27. 27
    gex says:

    @Skippy-san: You just go on believing that. There’s no social or emotional value to marriage – for gays. We’re just deformed like that.

  28. 28
    Xenos says:

    @JMN Is Now asiangrrlMN’s Official Stalker: I don’t know where you are in the process, or if you care for advice on such things, but many states oblige a policyholder to maintain existing insurance policies for the spouse that would otherwise lose spousal coverage, and some federal statutes can oblige this as well. Definitely a question you want to run by your counsel, because it has to be spelled out correctly in the separation agreement in order to work out for the best.

  29. 29
    kay says:


    Well, that, or they might want to raise kids, right?

    You just told us that no one has come up with a better system to raise kids. Marriage is numero uno for kid-raising.

    Perhaps they agree with you on that. Any particular reason you’d like to deny them that “best system” to raise their kids?

    Do you dislike kids?

  30. 30
    Xenos says:

    @kay: He does not dislike kids. He just likes kids less than he hates gays, which is a lot.

  31. 31

    @Xenos: We got divorced 18 months ago. I’m currently on COBRA from her employer. Obama has another 18 months to fix this before I’m screwed.

    Well, actually, *I’m* not screwed so much, because Minnesota is just about the only state in the country that fully funds its safety net insurance provision such that everyone who is eligible can get into the program. All I have to do is send them the letter canceling my COBRA coverage, and another letter from a health insurer rejecting my application for individual coverage, and I can get a policy for about 10% above what private insurers charge healthy people for the same plan. It’s goddamned so[male enhancer]m up here I tell you, at least until Gov. Pawlenty gets around to that part of the budget.

    Or I could get a job, but that’s been problematic.

  32. 32
    Spiffy McBang says:

    It’s ok, gex. I’m glad you made the second post- between you and Phoenix, I thought I had come off completely the wrong way. I still maybe could have said it better, but at least I’m pretty sure it sort of made the point I wanted it to.

    Phoenix- I’m not married, don’t have kids, so all of this benefit talk goes over my head. I don’t know or understand how big the difference is between married and unmarried couples. I just know it exists. My point was simply this: Anne said it’s not surprising gay couples are pushing for marriage because of the financial benefits. But if the goal for the vast majority is the legal benefits, than who cares what name the union is given as long as that’s the end result?

    You said it yourself- you’re fighting for the right to be taxed like the guy next door. If that’s what’s important to you, and you can get it, do you, yourself, care what the name given to the union is? And if you do care- if, with the same legal benefits, you still want “marriage” and not a “civil union”- then why?

    I’m just saying that there are some people who are pushing this middle ground of civil unions with full legal rights but not marriage, and that’s not good enough for a lot of people. It, therefore, has to be something beyond the legal benefits that drives them (note I am not saying they don’t care about the legal benefits). I don’t know what else it would be besides wanting to be married, to hold that equal social status, not just equal legal status. If there is some other reason, please, inform me. I live to learn. And that is not snark.

  33. 33
    Brachiator says:


    Marriage is a useless institution-except that no one has come up with a better way to raise kids.

    Actually, you kind of shift the terms of the argument away from benefits available to marrieds vs unmarrieds to the question of the best way to raise kids.

    Marriage has changed over time and it has not always been the middle class “mom and pop and the kids” model that you seem to have in mind. Even so.

    Let’s say that marriage is at least about two people who love each other who are able to comingle their assets and lovingly raise kids.

    So, then we have the example of someone like the actor Patrick Macnee (he played John Steed in the old British import tv show The Avengers) who writes in his memoirs about being raised and cherished by his mother and her lesbian partner Uncle Evelyn.

    His mother and her partner were not able to marry, but were able to live their lives without much interferrence, and they were able to come up with the scratch to provide Patrick with a comfortable life, including an education at Eton College.

    There really is no rational argument for preventing gay people from getting married.

  34. 34
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    Marriage is a wonderful institution…but who wants to live in an institution?
    -Groucho Marx

    Marriage, like the home mortgage interest deduction, is something we all pay for whether we’re participants or not. It’s just another part of an obsolete system that refuses to see people as people. My wife and I have been married for thirty years. As a result we receive benefits that are denied in most states to couples whose love may be as enduring as our own.

  35. 35
    Skippy-san says:


    I like kids just fine.

    But you are never going to convince me that there is a natural order to the universe that says two mommy or two daddy “families” work well. Or should somehow be on an equivalent basis with male/female marriage. Just not going to believe that.

    Why incentive’s marriage at all? There is only one reason-because society needs its citizens to reproduce. Nature created that natural order-and no matter how hard gays try they can’t really change it.

    You want to give someone benefits-sign a contract to do so.

    Besides, why buy all the junk that goes with marriage anyway? If anything the gays used to be ahead of the straights on that score-now they want to take a giant leap backwards.

    I don’t hate gays-I just don’t want to have to know someone is gay. Once I know that fact-it will become the only thing I see. And I’m not comfortable with that.

  36. 36
    geg6 says:

    Word. I have taken more than my share of shit in life due to my anti-marriage stance. I have have subsidized married people all my adult life and if gays marry, I guess I’ll be forced to subsidize them, too. Oh, well. It’s worth it, I guess, if no one forces me to do it. I simply can’t understand why a woman would choose to marry and have the greatest horror of ever finding myself in such a state. What really makes me crazy is that almost everyone I meet or already know keep trying to force me to admit I secretly really want it and continuously badger me about it like it’s their business or something. I mentioned to a co-worker (who had asked about how John and I were doing) that we were moving forward in our relationship and that we were going to talk about what the next level for us would look like. And she got that gleeful look in her eye and squealed that OMG! He’s gonna ask to marry you! And I said that he better not because he’d be sadly disappointed. And she kept after me to admit that marriage had always been my secret wish. Even strangers do this kind of stuff. It’s incredibly insulting and presumptuous. Other than my parents, what I’ve seen of marriage doesn’t recommend it, especially the fact that the majority of them are spectaclar failures even if they don’t end in divorce. It also presumes I’ve never had the opportunity. Riiiiiight. Or that I simply don’t know my own mind. The smug self-righteousness of marriage fetishists is enough to tell me that I want nothing to do with anything that attracts people like that. Which, though I support their right to do it, is why I have no idea other than financial reasons why gays would want to. Personally, I’d like to see it abolished as a legal status. Do whatever you want in your church or whatever, but marriage as a legal concept with the concommitant privileges it confers is ridiculous. And I get to subsidize it. And get treated as a second class citizen who doesn’t even know what she wants to boot. Fuck that shit.

  37. 37
    sleestak says:

    @29 – I think what you wrote is relevant to what I asked upthread. I’m honestly curious as to why we still have incentives for marriage. You seem to be quite certain that it’s for the kids. Are you able to elaborate? That is, is it because we want to encourage procreation, or is it because we have current studies showing that kids are somehow “raised better” by 2 parents? Assuming that these studies do exist, do we have evidence that the package of benefits and tax incentives are drawing in people who are getting married and building healthy marriages? I’m not asking you to produce these studies or point me in that direction (dick move)–I only ask generally because I’ve really never heard much serious discussion about whether these incentives really have any specific goal, or whether we really care.

    It seems to me that people who would marry strictly for the benefits would be the very people who do not make good parents/married couples. Same with people staying together for the same reason. I understand that those of you who are doing this very thing are just making the best of a bad situation–I’m just saying that if you’re doing it, others are doing it. And as a single person, it pisses me off that you guys get bonus points because you declared your one true love (although you get as many do-overs as you want).

  38. 38
    sleestak says:

    @36 – I like your style. Let’s get married.

  39. 39
    Spiffy McBang says:

    “But you are never going to convince me that there is a natural order to the universe that says two mommy or two daddy “families” work well.”

    Well, how could we? You sound like someone who would need evidence to even contemplate the possibility of thinking about it, maybe. And there is no evidence because we’re still stuck in a time warp and won’t allow it.

    Instead, we have to rely on logic. And logic says two dads or two moms who want to raise and care for a child will do a better job than a couple who fucked up, had a kid, and now view him/her as the anchor keeping them from doing anything with their lives.

    You may say, well, not all parents are like that. Of course not. But some are. And they’re gigantic fuckups. Any argument that says gay couples shouldn’t raise children implies they’re going to do worse than all the shitty heterosexual parents. If you think gay couples will inevitably be that bad, all of them- or even most of them- please offer some reasoning, or you’re the kid who claps his hands over his hears and shuts his eyes whenever his parents tell him something he doesn’t like.

    But, hey, if you want to be that kid, ok.

  40. 40

    @Skippy-san: First of all, your comment is a load of shit. Marriage has not always been what you said it’s been because the one thing that marriage has been, is changing.

    As for not wanting to know someone’s gay–that’s your fucking problem, not ours. I don’t want to know you’re a homophobic bigot, but now I do. I will have to deal with that.

    @geg6: I actually agree most with your comment. I am not for marriage in any sense, but I think if straight people can have it and do it well or fuck it up, well, then, so should queers. It’s about equality.

    I think it sucks that benefits and all that are tied up in marriage. I think it sucks that I have to pay almost as much for a hotel room as does a married couple (or really, a couple in general). I think if two people want to get married, it should be for the emotional benefits (or lack thereof) rather than for any financial benefits.

    Spiffy McBang, I just wanted to say that I got what you wrote earlier, and I think you’re right on. I also like your post at #39. You said it better than I did.

  41. 41
    Skippy-san says:


    Actually you are very correct. And wait a few years after gay marriage becomes the norm and gay divorce with one partner screwing the other over at the drive through in court-because of that partner’s perception of what they are “owed”.

    Only when one gay partner screws the other out of 30% of a hard earned retirement will they have achieved real “equality”

    Fix the divorce laws first-then one can deal with the marriage laws.

  42. 42
    Skippy-san says:


    Well marriage may be changing and roles of men and women in society are changing -just not for the better.

    As one who believes that there are different roles for men and women to play in society-I believe that society pays a cost for those changes. There is plenty of proof of my theory-just read Martin Van Kreveld for example.

    However, in a way-you prove my point. You need a piece of paper to love someone? Or to have sex with them? Neither of those things are required.

    As for whether I’m a bigot or not-well either way I’ve still got a lot of company. 50-60% of the US population at last count.

  43. 43
    ruemara says:

    Hm. Right now I sit next to my dh-ish. He has been out of work for over a year and has gone tacitly Galt. The majority of his time is spent reading online comics and waving around a tai-chi sword and failing to pursue employment with a near hysterical vengeance. If we truly were married, I could get him the medical care he definitely needs. If I left, the dream (modest, affordable, nothing fancy but the garden) house we just bought (he did), would be in default because we live off my tiny salary and his tax refund. In about 3 months, if he isn’t working, we will raid his 401k. If I left, I don’t know where I’d go because I barely earn enough for a modest share in our area. He has parents. We get no marriage benefits, because we’re not married. If we had a public health care option, I wouldn’t be scared to risk my patheticly underpaid job with great health bennies.

    We take care of each other fine without marriage certificates and so do many other gay & straight couples. I think gay couples simply want to get married. You know, love, wedding bells and all that jazz. Some get that way, some don’t. There are benefits, but most of those bennies would be irrelevant with a good public health care option.

  44. 44


    I was all fired up to deal with the “I just don’t want to have to know someone is gay. Once I know that fact-it will become the only thing I see. And I’m not comfortable with that.” shit, but you got there first…

    thanks Fake wifey…

    Hey Skippy-san – I’m a big ol’ gay with a big ol gay husband, and a big ol’ gay dog, and a bisexual, asian fake wife, who has an official stalker and a guy who fake hangs around smoking in doorways, and none of us give a shit who you sleep with, so what’s your problem?

    Are you seriously saying that if you know someone is gay, then the image of two sets of man bits in contact with each other is going to be the only thing you can think about? That might suggest that you are the one with the problem.

  45. 45

    @Tattoosydney: Ew. You said man bits. Now we have to fake divorce! Ha. You always make me laugh. That’s one reason I fake-married you. And your man-bits, of course, which you only share with your (real) hubby! Damn you!

    @Skippy-san: I don’t give a damn about a piece of paper. I give a damn about equality. And might does not make right, and your numbers are off, anyway. More people are in favor of gay marriage than against it these days. Keep up. If you look at the ‘tradition’ of marriage, you will see that love marriages are fairly recent in nature, and apparently, not all that stable.

    Fake-hubby, let’s you and me fake-make out to this:

    Actually, this song fits better:

  46. 46
    eglenn says:

    .Why incentive’s marriage at all? There is only one reason-because society needs its citizens to reproduce. Nature created that natural order-and no matter how hard gays try they can’t really change it.

    Such tripe. Somewhere between 4 (2005) and 5 (2006) out of 10 children in the US are born out of wedlock. If this was the least smidgen true, wouldn’t those numbers be a little more one-sided towards the marrieds?

    Marriage is given an incentive for any of a number of reasons.

    • More stable? WIth a 40% first time divorce rate, maybe not so much (the reason the blended 50% number is usually given is that serial divorcees drive up the numbers – hello Newt?).

    • Less mobile? This may have a grain of truth, as familes tend to move large distances much less often.

    • More voters reached with a single incentive? I suspect that the number of people who are married plus the number who expect to be married (even again) represent a majority, particularly on the conservative side of the street.

    As Steve Martin says in ‘The Jerk’, “It’s a profit deal!”

  47. 47
    Jim Pharo says:

    I think marriage is just part of the last social safety net. Familial relations, and other individual social connections, are all that’s left when one removes formal structures of support.

    Think how many homes have not just one or two, but three, four or five wage-earners in them to cover the rent bill or mortgage payment. Think how many people in their 20s and 30s with jobs are living with their parents.

    As a society, we have been robbed, victimized. We are coping in various ways, and given that the system hasn’t yet wiped out certain benefits for family connections, they will be managed, cherished — used — to help ameliorate the harsh effects of living in America (no, not the one where the rich people live, the other America: The America For the Rest of Us).

    Love this writer. More, please!

  48. 48
    kay says:


    This is historical romance, and it has nothing to do with reality. A married mother and father of opposite sexes are the traditional way to raise children, that’s true.
    That isn’t what kids care about though. They’re really self-centered. That’s logical. They’re smaller and powerless, so they look out for number one :)
    They want to be cared for. Secure. Any set of arrangements that makes them safe and secure is fine with them. They don’t care about your issues.
    I did a custody plan between a legal guardian, a birth mother, and the paternal grandmother this month. Primary custodian and visitation. It’s a long story. I did a legal guardianship between a grown half brother and his 7 year old half sister. That’s a long story too. I can’t count how many I’ve done where grandparents are the primary caretakers. My state actually has a grandparent’s custodial statute. It’s 20 years old.
    These arrangements are not unusual, and they’re not unusual in our history. My mother’s people were farm laborers and she was raised by a collection of maiden aunts. They worked it out. My father was raised by a single mother, and he’s as old as dirt.
    Compared to the reality of children’s lives, two same-sex parents is stodgy. Stop being so sentimental, and stop imagining that 1950 is the historical norm.

  49. 49
    Chinn Romney says:

    I’m in the process of getting a divorce. I nearly fainted when I learned how much even COBRA was going to cost. Then I learned that Massachusetts has this great Law where I can keep my Ex on my health plan after the divorce. I don’t think I’ll ever remarry, but until then she can remain on it. The cost to me is neglible.

  50. 50
    WereBear says:

    Society should encourage social bonds. The current Republicans have a very narrow definition of proper social bonding that they unsuccessfully claim everyone should fit into.

    Having a life partner creates a better society for all of us. Stability, care, better mental health; it’s really a no-brainer.

    For those who have brains.

  51. 51
    CobbleHill_PITA says:

    @Spiffy McBang:

    Absolutely not.

    Just because the state declares your civil union equivalent to marriage doesn’t mean that your city, your insurance company, your employer, your gym or your federal government have to recognize it as such. There is also nothing that prevents some judge from coming along and saying “Whoops the state got it wrong. Your rights don’t apply here” if you try to exercise them.

    There are centuries of legislation and jurisprudence surrounding the status of marriage, defining and protecting the rights of the parties. There is nothing that does this for civil unions.

    Couples who have entered into civil unions find that they have to turn to the courts and face costly (both in time and money) legal battles ahead.

  52. 52
    grumpy realist says:

    For those who would equate a “civil union” and “marriage”….um, we happen to be a Common Law country. Y’know, built on case law etc?
    “Marriage” is *much* more strongly protected than a “civil union”, plus there are all sorts of legal defaults where being “married” means the law will grant you all sorts of assumptions that you don’t get normally. (Also, don’t imagine that you can make up for it with contract law–> when contract law gets *too* personal, courts will throw it out. Contract law is for commercial transactions, so if you have something that looks too much like a “family transaction” good luck arguing against the huge load of case law that’s stacked against you negating such things, even if that is the only way you think you can get protection.)

  53. 53
    Emma says:

    One added twist to the tax situation: try being the single daughter of parents who lost all their savings in the (first) crash back in the 1990s, when we should have fixed this fucking mess!

    My parents have only social security. With their last savings and some of mine we bought a house together so they wouldn’t spend the end of their lives going from rental to rental every few years. It was a good deal in a working class neighborhood. I got a good job with health bennies. They have medicare through a private company and all is well. For now, but property taxes are going up and medicare benefits are slowly eroding away.

    Tax breaks? Hahahah. I’m allowed to file as head of household because of their lack of income. Nothing else. No credit-for-this or credit-for-that. In the United States families are nuclear units. Everyone else can go pound sand. I just thank God every day for a tax attorney who knows to to legally maximize my deductions.

  54. 54
    passerby says:

    I was married briefly back in 1984. That’s how I learned that it’s not for me. I’m just not the marrying kind. To me, marriage boils down to a financial agreement (that’s the main purpose of signing those papers). Like all the other single folks, I sit on the sidelines at tax time and watch married folk get their tax breaks.

    As long as we’re fighting for gay rights for marriage, I don’t understand why we don’t just go ahead and declare that any American is free to form this kind of financial union (financial agreement), with one other citizen, that would give them eligibility for tax breaks and enable them to have access to the other legal privileges that marrieds enjoy.

    These tax schemes are discriminatory not only against gays, but also against those like myself who are not so enamored by the whole two by two, happily ever after thing.

    If I ever get “married” again, I can guaran-damn-tee you I won’t be signing any papers. And, the ceremony would consist of camping out overnight on a mountain top and stand holding hands at dawn, naked, with the rising sun and morning dew as our witnesses (hair flowers optional).

  55. 55
    passerby says:


    Society should encourage social bonds. The current Republicans have a very narrow definition of proper social bonding that they unsuccessfully claim everyone should fit into.

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it looks like you are presuming that “society” is equivalent to “government”.

  56. 56
    passerby says:


    I don’t hate gays-I just don’t want to have to know someone is gay. Once I know that fact-it will become the only thing I see. And I’m not comfortable with that.

    Gotta give you credit for your honesty. I’ve never seen such a bold declaration of that opinion and I’m sure there are many who feel the same as you but remain stifled.

    Good on you for daring to come out of the closet, Skippy-san.

  57. 57
    kay says:


    I don’t think history reflects that marriage was primarily created to codify a family unit, or to protect children.

    I think they wrote it into code to create an orderly system for distributing property rights, actually, because at the time it was codified children were property.

    “child of the marriage” status comes with a set of rights and responsibilities.

    I think you’re getting all blurry and misty-eyed. Try to separate the wedding from the hard-headed practical matters. You’re a hopeless romantic.

  58. 58
    sleestak says:

    @46 – I’m still looking for a logical reason why it’s in our interest, in this day and age, for the government to encourage marriage. I’ve come across nothing better than the “profit deal” explanation. Great line, by the way. I think I’m going to watch that this weekend.

  59. 59
    Interrobang says:

    Eh, Skippy-san sounds like a bitter divorced guy with a secret or not so secret loathing for women. “Oh, waa waa, The Bitch took me for everything I had in the divorce! Marriage is evil!” The ranting about “When I see gays getting screwed in divorce court” and “fix the divorce laws” is a real tip off. (So, sparky, how much lost income and opportunity did your ex-wife lose by taking up with your sorry ass, huh?)

    Scratch a homophobe, find a misogynist, just about every time.

    You know, I have a bunch of gay friends, and unlike every damn homophobe out there, I never think about what they’re doing in bed, just like they don’t think about what I’m doing in bed. Then again, woman-haters tend to be obsessed with dicks, and so it’s not surprising they spend a lot of time thinking about what gay men do in bed.

  60. 60
    Tonybrown74 says:

    Why incentive’s marriage at all? There is only one reason-because society needs its citizens to reproduce. Nature created that natural order-and no matter how hard gays try they can’t really change it.

    Obviously, people do not fuck, get pregnant or have kids at all if they are not married, so I see your point!

    /bullshit tolerance

    I swear to gawd! I am so friggin’ tired of this argument. Once again, there is no requirement for procreation, for the ability to procreate, or for the ability to mimic procreative sex in any marriage law in this country.

    Also, do you honestly think the semen suddenly decides to not fertilize the egg because it realizes that couple currently screwing isn’t married??

  61. 61

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  62. 62
    Spiffy McBang says:


    I’m mildly ashamed that I moved far enough into the abstract that I forgot about the simple lack of trust in the system acknowledging existing legal rights. The government certainly could create a system where there are full and unquestionable legal rights under another name, but then, they could come up with universal health care, too. So, yeah. Thanks for the reminder.

  63. 63
    mmDerdekea says:

    I don’t think Skippy-San actually READ Patrick Macnee’s autobiography, which I have, twice, being a huge fan of him and lucky enough to have met him nine times. In no way did Macnee feel loved or cherished by the relationship of his mother and “Uncle Evelyn”. Uncle Evelyn treated him like trash, made him wear kilts all the time, kicked him out of the house for boarding school when he was five and didn’t bring him home for holidays when the school was essentially empty, and caused such psychological damage that Macnee went through intense counseling when he was around 50 to try to get over his damaged childhood. His mother was essentially kind to him, but never stood up for him against Uncel Evelyn and allowed all this abuse to occur.
    Mind you, all that has nothing to do with gay marriage, which I fully support. It just means cruel, nasty people should not be in charge of children. But, we should pick and choose our examples better to support the gay marriage idea.

  64. 64
    mmDerdekea says:

    Excuse me, Brachiator wrote that previous comment about Patrick Macnee’s autobiographical childhood, not Skippy-San, whom Brachiator was quoting. I’m really sorry for getting that wrong.


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