Monday, April 8, 2013

Long-Term Togetherness

The Gay Marriage Debate in this country is the one I find the most eyeroll-worthy because ultimately, it’s a debate over not just semantics, but legalese semantics. It’s about what, if anything, we’re going to call a little piece of paper you can get from the government that 1. acts as a series of default partnership contracts such as shared assets, next of kin, etc. and 2. puts a couple in a special tax status.

Gays can already do the actual marriage part. You know, it’s that part about vowing to stay and live together as a couple, in sickness and in health till death do them part. As such, it’s not a question of civil rights, since nobody is looking to stop that (save for maybe the crazy Westboro baptist people that we all despise), and it’s not a question of morality or the end of our culture as we know it because it already is permitted by our society. (Unlike say pre-civil rights interracial relationships, wherein a black man could be hung in some places for so much as looking at a white woman in the wrong way, never mind trying to court or marry her.)

Instead we’re talking about that little piece of paper from the State and its two particular functions. As far as the tax function is concerned, that isn’t about rights so much as it’s about how we use our tax code. The government can, and does, carve out all kinds of exceptions that require very specific requirements to be met in order to receive them, so if you have a problem with one group getting a special bit of treatment than another group, we should be talking about tax reform instead, and you’d be hard-pressed to find people who don’t agree the tax code sucks.

That leaves us with the series of contracts. Gay marriage proponents want the little piece of paper that represents these contracts to be called a “Marriage License” like the hetero folks get so they don't feel discriminated against, and opponents want it to be called something more like a “Civil Union” to denote the slight distinction between a same-sex and a hetero-sex union so that religious institutions can continue to provide the piece of paper as part of their service. This slightly different name is utterly meaningless outside legalese because really, if you get a Civil Union and you go around telling people you’re “married”, is anyone seriously going to stop and correct you on that? Do people go around correcting CEOs if they refer to their company as a “corporation” and not something more specific like “S-Corp”?

Neither side is willing to budge on this, and the gay marriage proponents are unwilling to allow individual states to decide what they want to call their piece of paper because they keep losing whenever they put it to a vote. Given this stalemate, it seems the only solution to this problem is to just straight up get government out of marriage entirely. No tax breaks. Everyone handles their own contracts, and if you want to get “married”, that’s between you, your partner, and the officiating person of your choice.

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