The Right To Marriage And Family For Same-Sex Couples

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Marriage was once viewed as something much different from what it is now. It is a commitment between two individuals and the definition according to Google states, “in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman”. This commitment varies between cultures; however, the overall concept is that marriage is a commitment of love and loyalty. There are many other benefits come along with marriage, resulting in couples marrying for reasons other than love. Claudia Card raises a good question in her essay titled Against Marriage and Motherhood, considering how marriage turned into an extremely flawed system, should same sex couples pursue marriage? “The question whether lesbians and gay men should pursue the right to marry is not the same as the question whether the law is wrong in its refusal to honor same-sex marriages”. Card raises three main issues about what is wrong with marriage for same-sex couples to take into consideration before jumping into the flawed system; benefits upon marrying someone, divorce and the fact that marriage is monogamous. ‘ If we remember the history behind marriage and what it once meant, women used to be property of her husband. This was because when she married her husband, she would be transferred from her father to future husband. She had no rights of her own and there was always a male figure dominating her life. It is almost seen as a form of slavery because these women lacked political and economic benefits and were being possessed in many ways.

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After all, back then, a husband had the right to sell his children as hostages if he wanted to because the man had every power over his family. A woman could not even divorce her husband if she wanted to, unless for a horrendous act, such as murder, while the husband could leave his wife for any reason. This is why feminists view the institution of marriage as deeply flawed and a game of power play. Even decades later, women are still treated unequal and dominated by the man in the marriage and this could very well be because of its deep history. One reason why the system of marriage seems to be flawed is due to any couples, both heterosexual and homosexuals, receive numerous benefits from the government when getting married. These benefits include unpaid leave from their workplace to take care of a family member, tax benefits, social security benefits, healthcare benefits and many more. Other benefits include getting the right to live in attractive residential areas as well as have affordable dental and health insurance. In addition, spousal benefits for employees are a significant portion of many workers’ compensation. This makes it so married workers who are working the same exact position as unmarried workers, make more money to support their spouse and themselves. With all of this in mind, it makes sense as to why couples would only marry for the benefits they would be receiving. This leads to couples staying in an unwanted relationship, which prevents them from being able to start over with someone new. “As long as marriage is monogamous in the sense of one spouse at a time, it interferes with one’s ability to obtain spousal benefits for a new lover. When spouses grow to hate each other, the access that was a joy as lovers turns into something highly dangerous”. It is believed this is one of the main reasons couples jump into marriage, because the benefits of marriage outweigh the benefits of staying single. Couples are economically pressured into marrying, according to Card. ‘>The reason mentioned above ties into the second problem with marriage, that the economic motives that come along with marriage also make it so couples do not divorce when they should. I relate to this point the most because I live in a household where my mother would leave an unhappy relationship but unfortunately cannot because she depends on her spouse economically. I also have a friend who desperately wants to divorce his wife but he will be paying alimony until she remarries, if that ever happens, causing him to stay in a very unhappy relationship until he finds a better job. “If one partner can sue the other for support or receive a share of the other’s assets to which they would not otherwise have been legally entitled, there are new economic motives to preserve emotionally disastrous unions,” (Card, 6). There are many other things to take into consideration when getting a divorce such as child support and dealing with once shared property.

To make things more troublesome, especially if the marriage ends badly, if the couple has children they have to decide who gets custody of the children or when the other parent are allowed to have the child. There are many different reasons an individual would prolong a marriage because it almost seems more difficult to get a divorce than it is to stay married. Not only is it human desires that make obtaining a divorce difficult, but it is also the flaws within the family law system. ‘> Card’s final point regarding marriage as a flawed system is it is understood as having only one spouse at a time. She argues that many homosexuals, specifically lesbians, have a hard time of having only one long term and intimate relationship with one person at a time. This point may be connected with her own personal experience since she does not reflect on heterosexual couples being polyamorous. In essence, Card is arguing that marriage laws should consider expanding so couples could have more than one spouse a time. This does not seem to be a problem within marriage itself; it seems more like a personal preference and the individuals taste. I found this point to be interesting because although it is illegal to marry more than one person at a time, the individual could have another long term, intimate relationship and not be married, or in other words, an open marriage. There are definitely ways around this point, although it could be frowned upon by society. She also mentions a fourth problem she sees as unchangeable that could be because of second issue with marriage, divorce. Violence is an issue due to a spouse having legal rights of access to their partner’s person and this may be escalated due to couples not getting divorce when they should. While not every marriage is violent or will become violent at some point, the issue remains that the state makes it so spouses lack protection in violent situations. For example, if a woman accused her husband of rape and wanted to take him to court, she would have a difficult time justifying her case to a jury. This point ties back in with the history of marriage when men had complete power over their wife. Many marriages that become violent are not due to one spouse having legal rights over the other, it seems like it would be more of an anger management issue that develops within a person. Majority of people are not at risk of being murdered when they get married, although that is one of Cards biggest arguments, despite the fact it is something unchangeable in her eyes. In fact, any sort of intimate relationship, not just marriage, could open the door to violence or murder. Everyone has a reason for why they get married, whether that be love, economic benefits, reproducing, or many other reasons people decide to get married. Claudia Card believes people marry because “it is a tradition, glorified and romanticized,” she invalidates those couples who marry for reasons other than the normal tradition, love. There are still many couples that marry because they are in love, but she makes it seem like majority of the population only marries for economic benefits. Toward the end of her argument, she also states homosexual men and women who form partnerships do so because they truly love one another and want to be together, delegitimizing heterosexual relationships in a way.

Personally, I have never really been interested in getting married due to my personal experiences. I was never one of those girls that fantasized about their wedding or what her future husband would be like. Now that I identify as a lesbian, it has changed my perception on marriage even more so. While I still believe same-sex couples should definitely have equal rights when it comes to marriage and everything else, I do side with Card on not necessarily jumping into the system marriage evolved into, unless changes are made. These issues with marriage previously mentioned have little to do with the concept of marriage itself, but rather employer conditions to receive benefits, government policies and societal views. It would be interesting to see a world where we somehow changed the perception of a legitimate relationship and couples who obtained every aspect of marriage without actually being married, had access to one another’s benefits. This would require overseeing century’s worth of perceptions and beliefs, making this highly unlikely.

01 February 2021

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