Thursday, October 4, 2007

Domestic Partnerships

Some people believe that legal marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples, with civil unions being reserved for homosexuals. Others believe that all legally recognized unions should be for heterosexuals only. And many people believe that marriage is for both straights and gays.

And there are those who acknowledge the dual nature of marriage, civil and religious. They believe that the government should only be involved in the civil part and should be available to both hetero and homosexuals. A civil union would have no religious significance and a marriage would have no legal standing. Most couples would have both a legal union and a marriage, but both could exist without the other.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows that I take a dim view of legal marriage. The main reason is because I believe that it's not the government's place to define, legislate, or promote what a "legitimate" personal relationship is and what it is not between consenting adults.

Many people have agreed with me in principle, but point out that legal marriage bestows many legal rights and benefits currently unavailable to those in non-legal relationships of various forms, so they enter into legal marriages, for lack of a better alternative. Such rights are those that mainly involve practical benefits for those sharing a household in a longterm relationship, such as filing joint taxes, eligibility to be carried on the other's health insurance, and so on..

I understand this concern, which is a valid one.

What I can't understand is why such rights and benefits must be based on a sexual relationship, rather than being based on the practical logistics of sharing a household on a longterm basis, regardless of the nature of the personal relationship.

Instead of marriage or civil union, both predicated on a sexual relationship, the government could legalize domestic partnerships that would focus solely on the practical rights and benefits now limited to legal marriage that are related to sharing a household. Any sexual relationships that might exist, would be entirely irrelevant to the terms of the Domestic Partnership.

In addition to those in long term sexually-based partnerships, gay and straight, Domestic Partnerships could include adult siblings sharing a household, an adult child and elderly parent(s)sharing a home, two platonic friends living together, and so on. Just as with marriage, such relationships could be legally dissolved if those involved ceased sharing a household.

For those who object to this idea because of the concerns of any children born into a relationship, I would say that family law would be based on how a child relates to each of their parents, not on how the parents relate to each other. Indeed, domestic partnerships might provide stronger legal relationships between a child and other key family members -- a grandparent or an aunt/uncle could put a child in their household on their medical insurance, for example.

Marriage would still exist as a private, optional relationship of a religious or spiritual nature, but the government would play no part in it. Domestic partnerships and marriage would be two entirely different entities that might or might not co-exist in the same relationship. One would be a legal relationship; the other would be a strictly personal one.


1 comment:

Cyn said...

i've seen this issue presented elsewhere...but i like the way you put it. as usual quite nicely. *grin*

domestic partnerships could cover so much more legal ground than traditional marriage...a trend that will continue as same sex non sexual couples who share financial and medical custodial an aging pair of friends w/ Alzheimer's, one w/out...that one being in charge of paying bills or who is named legal guardian in re: the other's medical care. that particular demographic will only continue to increase in number. there are other very specific types of 'households' that would also benefit greatly by designation as domestic partnerships too. they are also on the increase and will be regardless of changes in laws. society demographics are always way ahead of law. it'd be cool if it were extended beyond 'pairs' too.
and yes, if you go into a lawyer's office and pay ridiculously high fees you can have some lengthy legal document drafted that would cover any of these contingencies...but i betcha they'd still be haggled over in court after the fact by other interested parties. by establishing domestic partnerships as a matter of law..bypass all that bother. both for the individuals, their pocketbooks and the courts and taxpayers.
this is a subject that needs much more press and public discussion.