Openness

Hacking Marriage

Polyamory, creative prenups, platonic co-parenting, open marriage, and the power of contracts

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The United States government really wants you to get hitched. Married couples enjoy over 1,000 specific rights and responsibilities under the law, from tax credits to immigration to health insurance. Here's the problem: Over 50 percent of American adults are unmarried, yet many of those people are nonetheless part of families or relationships that could and should benefit tremendously from official status.

As same-sex marriages gradually win legal and social status, it's becoming harder to make the case that these other relationships shouldn't be similarly recognized. Luckily, thanks to the powerful tool of private contracts, families of all kinds can and do figure out ways to protect their love and family relationships with the people they choose.

Build Your Own Family

As a family law attorney and family mediator who primarily serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other clients with nontraditional families, I see people every day with the same questions: Can I get health insurance for my partner? Can he immigrate to live with me? Can we pay taxes together to get a benefit if he's my dependent? Can I visit him in the hospital? To their disappointment, my answer is often no.

A nontraditional family structure is one that falls outside of our traditional nuclear family model. Some of my clients are platonic co-parents. A gay man, for instance, might want to be a biological father but would rather not spend the $100,000 needed to become a parent by the complex legal and medical process of surrogacy. Instead, he chooses to raise a child with a single female friend, who would rather parent with a dear friend than rush to marry just so her child will have an involved father. I also serve polyamorous couples in consensually nonmonogamous relationships. Some clients are triads (or throuples)—three people in a primary relationship, who may or may not be monogamous with one another, and who have their own set of legal challenges.

While these family structures may seem far out, they are increasingly common and, especially in the case of polyamory, increasingly visible. Showtime's TV show Polyamory: Married & Dating and the upcoming documentary Monogamish (in which I appear) are just two examples of the uptick in media interest.

For the Children

The strongest resistance to the idea of legal recognition for nontraditional families often comes in the form of concern for children involved. Studies, such as the widely publicized 2011 report Why Marriage Matters from a team of conservative scholars chaired by W. Bradford Wilcox, are brought out to support the idea that monogamous, straight marriage is the best context for raising children.

Three gay men marry in Thailand
Caters News Agency

What the body of sociological work on this topic actually demonstrates is that stability of parenting figures is best for children; a revolving door of step-moms and step-dads is clearly sub-optimal. Andrew Cherlin, who wrote The Marriage Go-Round and co-authored a Brookings Institution report with Wilcox entitled The Marginalization of Marriage in America, cites the numerous studies demonstrating that unstable caregiver relationships are damaging to children. This need for stability is frequently cited by family courts in child custody determinations. The flawed leap in logic of many of these analyses is that they automatically equate parenting stability with traditional marriage. But as anyone who knows a couple who rushed into marriage for health insurance or immigration benefits can attest, traditional marriage isn't synonymous with stability.

Yet there's a straight line from this argument to myriad policies pushing people to get married. The federal government, for instance, has spent millions of welfare dollars pushing single mothers to marry. As described in a 2002 publication from the Alternatives to Marriage Project, Let Them Eat Wedding Rings, the federal government created the Healthy Marriage Initiative and the Responsible Fatherhood Program as five-year experiments as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Grants totaling nearly $750 million were awarded to hundreds of programs under the umbrella of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 2006 alone. Some of these funds went to billboards promoting marriage as an end to poverty, as if a wedding ring would magically lead to prosperity and stability. Couples at higher levels of socioeconomic prosperity often find themselves pushed to marry by many overlapping policies such as those allowing spousal inheritance without tax, employer subsidized health insurance for married partners, and streamlined policies that create greater ease for married couples in co-ownership of property and financial accounts.

In child custody determinations, the overarching standard is "the best interest of the child," a subjective decision based on the opinion of the one judge in the case, with all his or her own biases. When I represent a parent who is polyamorous or otherwise nontraditional, I can often predict the outcome of the case based on latitude and longitude as a proxy for the social values of an area. In New York City, I've won custody for a mom who was a polyamorous lesbian dominatrix, because the judge didn't think these aspects of her personal life implied that she lacked moral judgment or that they would impair her abilities as a mother. In more rural and conservative upstate New York, I had a Republican Christian police officer dad lose custody because he was living with a girlfriend before his divorce had been finalized. The judge found that behavior immoral to the point of questioning his ability to parent.

In this landscape, how do I provide stability for clients when the law doesn't recognize their family structure? How do I protect their rights and minimize the harm they suffer from the government bias against them?

In many cases, I help clients create family agreements by design, out of court, so they can use contract law to map their own path rather than picking a family structure from the government's menu. In effect, they can hack family policy and make it their own.

Connubial Contracts

Many of my clients want to commit to each other while maintaining nonmonogamy. Some call themselves polyamorous. Some prefer the word monogamish, or describe their relationship as an open marriage. Some still call themselves monogamous but claim the right to define what this means.

A first decision for a couple in a consensually nonmonogamous relationship may be to choose whether they wish to enter into legal marriage. Many couples who question monogamy also question the institution of marriage. I explain the many financial ramifications of entering into marriage, which, legally speaking, amounts to a private welfare state of two where all debt and profit is shared as marital property (unless these terms are tweaked by a prenup). For a specific couple, this may or may not be the best strategic choice for their interests.

For those clients who do marry, I help them devise creative prenuptial agreements. People think of prenups as a way to keep a gold-digging future spouse away from their money, but I try to reclaim the concept of prenuptial agreements for romance. The process can be an opportunity for an intimate discussion about a couple's practical and financial intentions for their marriage. Just as they have a right to make their own vows, I encourage them to make their intentions clear about whether and how they wish to share their money and property through their unknown possible future of children, prosperity, or loss.

As long as these prenups include the factors required by their state, such as full financial disclosure, adequate legal counsel, and recitations of any legal rights to be waived, these agreements are generally legally enforceable in any future divorce action. But the conversation is even more valuable protection than the contract, by helping prevent future misunderstandings and ensuring that the parties share their underlying assumptions.

If clients choose not to marry but still wish to outline their intentions about how they will share finances as a cohabiting couple, we may create a cohabitation agreement. If one will be a stay-at-home parent or other financial dependent, this agreement is the essential means to provide for ongoing support and division of assets if the couple separates. In effect, the couple can choose some of the financial protections of marriage and agree to them via contract.

An unmarried couple may also wish to protect their rights with wills, powers of attorney to make financial decisions for each other, health care proxies who can make decisions for their partner in the hospital, or a state or local domestic partnership registration, which may allow them to share health insurance benefits through an employer (although often at a higher rate than for married couples).

Some clients create what I call "emotional prenups," which are not legally enforceable. For clients who are nonmonogamous and wish to marry, for instance, I might help them write both a legally binding prenuptial agreement and a separate emotional prenup, more akin to a Jewish Ketubah or a statement of vows, that may address their intentions in relation to monogamy, parenting, division of household responsibilities, or a commitment to pursue couples therapy before splitting.

With these delicate discussions and negotiations, couples create powerful vows about issues that cause rifts in many marriages. Clearly written intentions on a signed piece of paper can have tremendous emotional weight, even if they involve agreements that it wouldn't necessarily make sense for a court to enforce—that a wife would go to couples counseling before divorcing her husband, say, or that a husband would agree to support his wife in her romantic relationships with women. Couples have told me that the process of reaching these pacts has saved their marriages or vastly improved them. Legal enforceability isn't the only measure of an important contract.

Triads and Quads

What if a polyamorous couple falls in love with a boyfriend and wants to welcome him into a three-way triad marriage? I support couples in just this situation, and it's a complicated adventure to try to provide them with the legal protections they seek.

Three-way marriage is not legal in the United States. To create parity between three partners, I've divorced happy couples so that their third partner wouldn't feel left out of the marriage, with the burden of fewer legal rights and protections. I've also helped triads decide whether any two of them should get married strategically to protect a partner's parenting rights, health insurance, or immigration status. This triad might go on to have a polyamorous commitment ceremony that is as elaborate, expensive, or deeply felt as any wedding but not legally binding.

If a triad wishes to share finances or buy a house, we can create a three-person cohabitation agreement. It would include all the factors that make a two-person cohabitation agreement valid and binding, with the intention to set them up for stability that would keep them out of court, but also to create a document that I hope would be enforced by a court to clarify that a three-person cohabitation agreement can be binding. My clients are advised that depending on their jurisdiction, the courts may refuse to enforce the contract.

Some polyamorous triads (or quads!) pursue the possibility of creating a limited liability corporation to share financial accounts. In practice, squeezing a family dynamic into the corporate structure of mission statements and bylaws often feels unwieldy. It has never been the most efficient structure to achieve a goal of shared home ownership or shared health insurance, though I would try it for the right clients.

If our polyamorous triad wishes to have children and to co-parent as three, a careful co-parenting agreement could attempt to protect the party who is not a biological parent. It can be similar to the custody agreement or parenting plan that divorcing parents might create to address custody and visitation access, proportions of financial support, and the division of parenting decisions about schooling, medical care, and religion. (Such contracts can also be useful for platonic co-parents or for unintended parents from an accidental pregnancy who are not in a serious relationship.) In some states like Alaska and California, third parent adoptions have three adults recognized as legal parents, often in a context of a gay or lesbian couple with a platonic co-parent of the different sex.

The status of non-biological third parents who have not been able to achieve an adoption is legally nebulous. Over 20 states, such as New Jersey and Wisconsin, acknowledge an emotional or de facto parent, at least in two-parent families; my state of New York does not. In co-parenting agreements for polyamorous triads, I include all the factors that other states have included as a supportive basis for granting rights to third parents, such as an established parenting relationship with consent of the legal parents, financial contribution to the child's support without expectation of reimbursement, and the legal parents' intention for the emotional parent to have visitation rights and a continued connection with the child even if they split up. I try to keep my clients from court, but in case they do seek court intervention to enforce the agreement against one another, I try to create agreements that might be considered legally enforceable and could push forward state law. Nonetheless, the clients understand that in these situations, a judge could decide that they don't have rights to a continued relationship with a child they know as their own.

After 10 years of practice, none of the hundreds of envelope-pushing agreements I've drafted for clients has been challenged in court. I don't think this is a coincidence, nor is it bad luck for me as a potential precedent setter. The process of negotiating creative family agreements takes careful forethought. These families don't—can't—happen accidentally, as many pregnancies do, or by default, as marriages do when couples think it's their only option. Instead, their thoughtful, conscientious design can help create the very stability lawmakers seek when they valorize and privilege traditional marriage.

NEXT: Lego Store Detains 11-Year-Old Boy for Shopping Without Dad

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  1. I find the suggestion that polyamorists should organze to promote government recognized multi-partner marriage to be a big mistake. It would be time consuming, costly, and ultimately it might not produce helpful results. I’m against government sanctioned marriage period. What it gives us is socialized marriage, i. e. the government telling people who they can marry.

    Rather than beating the legalize marriage horse, we should ask government to butt out of the marriage business, advocate for individual rights in every area, from health care to social security benefits, and allow religious institutions to define marriage any way they want. People should then be free to form their relationships and households as they see fit.

    Our true ally in getting rid of socialized marriage is the singles movement, as exemplified by the work of the Unmarried Equality organization (formerly the Alternatives to Marriage Project). http://www.unmarried.org/ The potential constituency of Unmarried Equality is over half the adult population of the United States. So the big job is to educate a bunch of them to stand up for their rights and repeal special rights for couples.

    1. I agree that the statist institution of marriage is dying and should die. That said, the author of this article struck me as working within the current, frequently absurd legal constraints of state and country rather than as starting from first principles. Theres nothing wrong with that.

      Ideally, the private sexual relationships between human beings should have no role in what rights and priveleges they receive from the state. The highly dubious, arbitrary and often devastating rulings of family courts are what follows from a refusal to accept equal human rights and to engage in fine-tuned social engineering. You have to be nuts to get married, even if you do save a few grand in healthcare costs the consequences particularly for men can destroy your life.

    2. How and why would people couple up and propagate the species if not encouraged by public entitlements? You seem shortsighted.

      1. There’s always the point of a gun. I mean, after you tell them ‘they didn’t build that’ and they’re on the hook for their great-grandparents social programs you’re pretty much gonna have to resort to that at some point, right?

        Maybe there’s some weird phenotypes out there that gets horny on depressing stricture and crushing social obligation, I’d hope we can out breed them.

  2. The obvious solution — outlaw marriage for everyone.

    1. Hell yeah! That’s one government imposed ban I would enthusiastically get behind!

  3. If you’re religious and your church really, really, really wants y’all to get married, then go for it. Leave me (Jane Q. Taxpayer) the fuck out of it.

    1. That would be great. But you can’t do that. If you get married and try to duck out of the system by not getting a license, some judge will deem you married via common law marriage. And as part of a two income household, please get the government to no longer recognize my marriage. I take it up the ass in taxes because I am married. I will happily leave the government out of it so they will stop robbing me.

    2. And I am not sure, but I would not want to try getting married and then claiming to be single on my taxes. License or no, I bet the IRS calls that fraud. Moreover, no church will marry you unless you get a license anyway. So fucking spare me with the “all of these people are demanding government marriages”. They don’t have a choice.

      1. “Married filing singly” is an option on tax forms.

        1. I doesn’t change your tax status, just liability for cheating on your taxes. They still combine assests and income even if you fill separately.
          /IANACPA

    3. My point is, in my Libertopia, the decision to marry would be purely religious/spiritual, and not involve the government in any way, including by conferring tax benefits. If you have a dispute with someone with whom you have formed a co-habitation relationship, then that can be considered in court (i.e. how long you have co-habitated, what kind of expenses you shared, etc.).

  4. Which one is marrying the train?

    1. Don’t be silly. The train (male) is married to the tracks (female). The Tracks tell the Train where to go, just like us humans.

  5. As described in a 2002 publication from the Alternatives to Marriage Project, Let Them Eat Wedding Rings…

    Wouldn’t Let Them Eat Wedding Cake make more sense? Let’s focus on what’s important here.

  6. Let Them Not Bake Gay Wedding Cakes.

  7. Grants totaling nearly $750 million were awarded to hundreds of programs under the umbrella of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 2006 alone.

    He-he.

  8. yet many of those people are nonetheless part of families or relationships that could and should benefit tremendously from official status.

    Benefit how? By having the government dictate the terms of their relationship? By having to go to a judge and ask for permission to break up? Having a judge through the doctrine of common law marriage deem them married even though they don’t want to be? Is that what passes for “benefits” under the Libertarian view these days?

    How can Reason publish this shit? Isn’t the position that special benefits and government coercion are bad things? And if so, then shouldn’t Reason be pushing to eliminate those things, not expand them to include more people?

    1. Aw, come on. How else will they get the cool kids to invite them to parties?

      1. Like I say above, I would love to have the government declare my marriage invalid. Fuck them. I don’t need them to tell me I am married. And them declaring it invalid would lower my taxes and make it a thousand times more fair if I ever divorce.

        1. I see no legitimate grounds for government to be involved in licensing marriage. Or defining it, beyond maybe some legal principles around marriage contracts.

          1. When women were wards of their husbands, it was needed. But that is not true anymore. I think it is still needed if children are involved. But unless your marriage produces a child, the government has no interest in your relationship.

            1. I had a weird moment in law school when I saw something in Property about magic words used to convey property in the past. One set of those magic words was “to have and to hold.”

            2. I think it is still needed if children are involved.

              Sounds like a parenting license then.

          2. Nice marriage. Would be a shame for something to happen to it.

  9. …I encourage them to make their intentions clear about whether and how they wish to share their money and property through their unknown possible future of children, prosperity, or loss.

    Way to take the romance out of marriage!

    Let me ask the wedded libertarians among us: Why did you obtain a marriage license? (You know you did.) Is it because your non-libertarian spouse insisted? Is it because it’s just something that’s done? Did whomever presided over your ceremony require it? Did you consider that the accompanying entitlements are offered so it would be foolish not to take advantage? I’m curious the drive to get a marriage license.

    1. Because my wife is religious and wanted to get married in the church. The Church required it. Frankly, absent that, I would not have done it. There is no reason to.

      1. “She wants to” is the primary reason anyone gets married, is it not?

        1. Pretty much.

    2. Needed it so we could adopt.

    3. Is it because it’s just something that’s done?

      Pretty much.

    4. Did you consider that the accompanying entitlements are offered so it would be foolish not to take advantage?

      Yep.

    5. Non-libertarian wife and didn’t realize the tax implication.

    6. Is it because your non-libertarian spouse insisted?… Did whomever presided over your ceremony require it?

      Is there a difference here? Mrs. Casual is Catholic and the church required it (she’s not so Catholic as to care if the Church required it), if the church didn’t require it, she wouldn’t have.

      1. Interesting.

        Thank you to all responding. I will collate the data and figure out what the Millennials think of it.

        1. Don’t forget to ask Jesse. He is just now coming to terms with it.

    7. a little bit that my spouse wanted it, a little bit a lack of desire to fight inertia, and the entitlements are a big part or at least an unwillingness to figure out ways to do the same thing outside the entitlement arena.

    8. Because in 1986 the State of Virginia would not allow non-married heteros to rent an apartment together. (Oral and anal sex were also illegal– for everybody not just teh gheys).

    9. 1988 and I was in my twenties, I liked libertarian ideas but believed the company line about needing government for roads and education and to keep the rivers from burning.

      I had a child and both sides of the family believed marriage was needed for the child’s health and well being. The people I knew who were living together were generally left leaning and irresponsible. Marriage seemed like the smartest, most sensible thing to do since we had decided to make a life long commitment.

      I don’t know about the 1,000 benefits. I’ve never sat down and tried to figure out if it is financially a gain or loss.

      I do know that when I suggested we not petition for a gov’t ID number for our son – that we just forgo the $400 child credit – I learned that my husband was not as anti-government as I thought.

      The person officiating didn’t care if we were licensed or not.

  10. “This need for stability is frequently cited by family courts in child custody determinations.”

    Ha ha! If your family is being supervised by a family court, then “stable” is not the word I’d use to describe it.

  11. Let’s see if we can figure out a few things about a regime of “deregulated” marriage.

    (a) You’re a loyal wife who gave 40 years of your life to your husband. When he dies, you find that his will leaves all his property to his mistress. Under a regime of deregulation, can you demand a share of the property despite the will (as allowed under current law)?

    (b) Your spouse is sued in a slip-and-fall case on your property. The plaintiff’s lawyer wants to force you to disclose what your spouse said to you about the situation. Can you claim any privilege against testifying, as under current law?

    1. I dunno, is treating marriage as a different kind of contract the same as no longer requiring licensing and being hip-deep in the definition business? You can retain the privilege and other legal aspects of marriage without the government being involved as a regulator of marriage. Courts are a different matter.

    2. (b) Your spouse is sued in a slip-and-fall case on your property. The plaintiff’s lawyer wants to force you to disclose what your spouse said to you about the situation. Can you claim any privilege against testifying, as under current law?

      Doesn’t this fit well under the 1st and 5th Am.?

      Regardless of sex, children, and co-habitation, in order to compel testimony you pretty much have to prove a level of criminal association. I wouldn’t go so far as to extend it to a right to privacy, but that’s the popular thing to do.

      1. Certainly, if the person has the presence of mind to use the 5th, and thinks it’s applicable, the person could do it. The court might say there’s no possibility the testimony would be incriminatory, so there’s that risk. I don’t think the 1st Amendment would apply.

        How far would a right to privacy extend? Can they force you (under a grand of immunity) to testify against your girlfriend if she’s accused of a crime? Can they force you to testify against your mistress if she’s sued in a car crash?

        1. Can they do whatever the hell they want to us?

          Yes.

    3. (a) You’re a loyal wife who gave 40 years of your life to your husband. When he dies, you find that his will leaves all his property to his mistress. Under a regime of deregulation, can you demand a share of the property despite the will (as allowed under current law)?

      You’ve been so involved in his life and such a partner in everything he does that you get a last minute surprise that his dying wish was to leave everything to his mistress? Sounds like, in your devotion, you missed some pretty obvious details.

      Either way, sounds like something that shouldn’t be federally mandated from D.C. Especially if you switch the roles (“mistress” of 40 yrs. being left nothing while an estranged and unco-operative “wife” shows up out of the blue to claim “undeserved” inheritance) I don’t see that the law has exactly solved a distinct problem in any sort of bed rock manner.

      I’ve always fancied the common-law protracted co-habitation definition strictly out of convenience.

      1. “sounds like something that shouldn’t be federally mandated from D.C.”

        Of course not, it’s a state matter. If I was unclear about that, I certainly apologize.

        Now we’re getting down into the details of policy. It seems “deregulating” marriage would involve abolishing the laws about forced shares and leaving the hypothetical loyal wife out in the cold. Or not, because maybe the law would replace marriage with a doctrine of “common-law protracted cohabitation” (common law marriage?). But in the latter case we still have the government in the business of recognizing intimate relationships, and I thought the point of deregulation was to get the government *out* of that business.

        “”mistress” of 40 yrs. being left nothing while an estranged and unco-operative “wife” shows up out of the blue to claim “undeserved” inheritance”

        Does this suggest a rule that if a man leaves his mistress out of his will, she can come in and ask for some kind of forced share?

        These details seem kind of vague.

        1. These details seem kind of vague.

          As if just saying “common law” were crystal clear? Do you mean the common law marriages on the books where, typically, a *woman* *has* to take the *man*’s last name? Or do you mean some vague but socially convenient notion of ‘people who live together for a long time are generally hitched and/or family’.

          I’m not looking for to define the one true marriage that will be the ironclad law across the land. If I were, I’m on the wrong forum.

          At best, I’d distill out the most vague abstract notion that the FedGov should even consider/recognize as a marriage and leaving the rest of the nuance to trickle down as each region, state, municipality, community, and individual(s) dictate.

          1. It sounds like you’d replace a legal regime which is at least intelligible with vague and arbitrary laws leading to endless litigation.

            The existing laws have a more or less intelligible definition – a union (no longer lifelong, alas) between a man and a woman, which (outside the handful of common-law marriage states) needs to be solemnized in a public ceremony so everyone knows what’s going on.* So you’re either married, or you’re not, and there’s some fairly clear rules governing the distinction.

            But under the proposed new regime, we get some vague assurances that the government will recognize certain relationships which are sufficiently long-lasting, without specifying whether this means long-term cohabitation (how long?) or friends-with-benefits arrangements, or partying with your “secondary relationships” in a polyamorous arrangement, etc.

            And maybe the surviving partner in a relationship will be entitled to a forced share, or maybe not. And maybe there will be testimonial privileges, or maybe not.

            I get the distinct impression that the advocates of deregulate marriage see these issues as annoying distractions to be worked out after marriage gets deregulated. Will we have to pass it to see what’s in it?

            *And a license is generally required, though some states will recognize even an unlicensed ceremony, reserving the right to fine the officiant.

            1. It sounds like you’d replace a legal regime which is at least intelligible with vague and arbitrary laws leading to endless litigation.

              So, does it say one woman/one man or not? If it does, does it *mean* it? And if it does and it does, is it constitutionally enforceable?

              You’ll have to pass it, wait for public opinion to shift, have SCOTUS strike it down in some states… maybe/probably to find out. In the mean time, you can, despite any/all definitions use it to shut down pizzerias and compel bakers and photographers to participate against their will… maybe.

              I’d replace a nominally ‘clear’ but practically opaque system with a nominally vague and poorly enforceable at the federal level one. All three branches have made clear that more words can be enacted, enforced and then interpreted whimsically so less words at least means less reading/paperwork.

  12. “You can retain the privilege and other legal aspects of marriage without the government being involved as a regulator of marriage.”

    So, what would the details look like?

    How would you be able to seek a forced share of your spouses estate unless there’s a definition of what a spouse is?

    How would you be able to claim confidentiality of your marital communications if the government doesn’t have a definition of marriage?

    Or should forced shares and confidentiality apply to live-in lovers?

    Or maybe they should apply to the on-the-side partners you have in a “polyamorous” relationship? (the article mentions these).

    And also, government can recognize marriage without having a licensing system (eg, common-law marriage) – licensing provides some administrative convenience, but is not strictly necessary.

    1. How would you be able to seek a forced share of your spouses estate unless there’s a definition of what a spouse is?

      By having the assets titled jointly works a charm, and requires no marriage license. You could also make a contractual arrangement that would give you prior rights to an heir, as well.

      How would you be able to claim confidentiality of your marital communications if the government doesn’t have a definition of marriage?

      Same way doctors and lawyers claim a privilege? The state doesn’t license doctor/patient or lawyer/client relationships. Now, you can certainly stretch the term “recognize” so that any relationship that by its nature meets the requirements for a privilege is a relationship “recognized” by the state for that purpose, but really, that’s a long way from the current use of the term “the state recognizes this marriage” which is much broader.

      1. “The state doesn’t license doctor/patient or lawyer/client relationships.”

        Could we get away from this “licensing” distraction? The state could recognize marriages without a prior license, and in any case if it could be shown that the parties agreed to be married in a formal ceremony in front of witnesses, I believe the marriage ought to be recognized (perhaps with a higher fee for the officiant if he doesn’t get a license first).

        “By having the assets titled jointly works a charm, and requires no marriage license. You could also make a contractual arrangement that would give you prior rights to an heir, as well.”

        I see the scenario now: “Marry me, Bethany!” “Oh, yes, John, yes!” “Great – I’ll have my lawyer fax you the paperwork.” “And I’ll have my lawyer go over it.”

  13. Which is it? “Couples” could and should benefit tremendously from official status,

    or

    thanks to the powerful tool of private contracts, families of all kinds can and do figure out ways to protect their love and family relationships with the people they choose.

    If I can do what I want via contract without a license, why do I need official status conferred by a license?

    1. I would just repeat a remark of mine above – “government can recognize marriage without having a licensing system (eg, common-law marriage) – licensing provides some administrative convenience, but is not strictly necessary.”

      1. The term recognize is very elastic. Many relationships trigger certain legal consequences, and you can say the relationship is “recognized” for purposes of those consequences, but, c’mon. That use of the term is very narrow, and not really what having the state “recognize” a marriage for all 1,000 rights and responsibilities of marriage.

        1. I’m not sure what your point is. In a regime of “marriage deregulation,” when should the government compel you to testify against your lover? If a woman gives 40 years of her life to a husband but forgets to get a lawyer before the marriage, and then she finds that the husband left all his property to his mistress, should the widow get a forced share or not?

  14. This guy is a jerk. There is no reason for couples of any type to get privileges unavaialble to the single person. The obvious solution is not this guy’s nonsensical ideas – the privileges shouldnot and NEVER should have existed – they are clear discrimination against single folks. THAT is the
    situation that should never have existed. These other pairngs are not “non-traditional” marriages – they are not marriages at all. If they are, thneanything can constitute a marriage – man-dog marriages, etc. The country is just getting dumber and dumber.

    1. Even single people have in interest in stable marriages – real marriages, not the fake kind discussed in the article.

      The more stable marriages, the fewer troubled kids going off and committing crimes. Single people benefit from not getting robbed and raped so much.

      1. By advocating “discrimination” against single people, I suppose I’m a self-hater, evil, etc. But that wouldn’t make me wrong, would it?

        1. By advocating “discrimination” against single people, I suppose I’m a self-hater, evil, etc. But that wouldn’t make me wrong, would it?

          Morality is irrelevant. Any lower in the marriage argument is where, IMO, you descend into the singularity of anarchy. Dividing a contract by zero.

          The absurdity of Bastiat’s conjecture applies equally well to either side and nobody can make sense of anything.

          People with kids are clearly equal to childless, property-less nomads in the eyes of the law and if you oppose the ability of single people to marry nobody, then you’re in favor of no marriage at all.

          1. Could you run that by me again? I’m not sure I understood it.

  15. To the extent that marriage has benefits, it also has responsibilities. Presumably those people who have formed families without marriage have done so because they did not want to subject to the tesponsibilities. If they want the benefits, they can get married. There is no problem to be solved.p

  16. Diana Adams on Hacking Marriage

    Stop using the term ‘hacking’ out of its proper context. Stop. Please, please, STOP.

    1. Thank you. It isn’t as bad here on Reason as it is in the rest of the web so I cringed when I saw the headline. I was wondering whether to complain or to just grind my teeth in frustration. Now if you will excuse me I have to go hack dinner. (it means I’m peeling the potatoes differently than I sometimes do)

  17. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.jobnet20.com

  18. Thank you. It isn’t as bad here on Reason as it is in the rest of the web so I cringed when I saw the headline. I was wondering whether to complain or to just grind my teeth in frustration. Now if you will excuse me I have to go hack dinner. (it means I’m peeling the potatoes differently than I sometimes do)

    ????? 2017 ????? ???????.

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