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Discussion 4 on Meditation 149
What constitutes a marriage?

by Julie DiMauro

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In reply to Anthony DeLucchi's comments;

It is clear that you are unaware of the other socio-economic purposes of marriage, or else are ignoring them in favour of an incomplete model of marriage. You claim that the significance of marriage lies in the ability of a man and a woman to have offspring. However, not only is this obviously possible without marriage, but more and more straight couples are choosing to wed without any intention of having children. And yet, they still have the right to marry. Also, by your logic, people who have been made sterile by medical treatments or other means, and the involuntarily celibate should be kept from obtaining marriage licenses as well, which is ridiculous. Therefore, your argument has no logical basis.

In the act of obtaining a federally-recognized marriage, certain rights are conferred onto the couple that they would not normally have as domestic partners or cohabiting lovers. (While the following applies specifically to the United States, I am reasonably certain that most countries have similar laws and regulations.)

Allow me to quote "A Primer on Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships, and Defense of Marriage Acts" (which you may find at http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0922609.html):

"The most significant difference between marriage and civil unions (or domestic partnerships) is that only marriage offers federal benefits and protections.

According to the federal government's General Accounting Office (GAO), more than 1,100 rights and protections are conferred to U.S. citizens upon marriage. Areas affected include Social Security benefits, veterans' benefits, health insurance, Medicaid, hospital visitation, estate taxes, retirement savings, pensions, family leave, and immigration law.

Because civil unions and domestic partnerships are not federally recognized, any benefits available at the state or local level are subject to federal taxation. For example, a woman whose health insurance covers her female partner must pay federal taxes on the total employer cost for that insurance."

Here are just a few of the many rights that are inaccessible to unmarried and civilly united persons:

  1. Social Security benefits upon death, disability or retirement of spouse, as well as benefits for minor children.
  2. Family and Medical Leave protections to care for a new child or a sick or injured family member Workers' Compensation protections for the family of a worker injured on the job.
  3. Access to COBRA insurance benefits so the family doesn't lose health insurance when one spouse is laid off.
  4. ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) protections such as the ability to leave a pension, other than Social Security, to your spouse.
  5. Exemptions from penalties on IRA and pension rollovers.
  6. Exemptions from estate taxes when a spouse dies.
  7. Exemptions from federal income taxes on spouse's health insurance.
  8. The right to visit a sick or injured loved one, have a say in life and death matters during hospitalization.

(The above list is respectfully borrowed from the National Organization for Women's website: http://www.now.org/issues/marriage/marriage_unions.html)

Private issues affected by the institution of marriage include, but are not limited to: portability of rights (marriage recognized nationally), gifts and property transfers, income tax status, child or spousal support, medical decisions, and immigration.

As you can see, there is far more to marriage than merely having offspring. Marriage is a social and financial institution that has a huge impact on the way one is able to access institutional resources on a daily basis. Marriage as a special status for opposite-sex couples alone is unwarranted and clearly bigoted, because it robs a vast number of other people from being able to obtain the same social, economic, and judicial rights as heterosexuals. There is no single non-religious (and therefore, logical) reason why same-sex couples should be denied the same rights as opposite-sex couples.