Marriage should be like owning a dog...
May 3, 2001 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Marriage should be like owning a dog... Or so Rod Stewart believes. Stewart describes just why marriage licenses should be annually renewable, just like dog licenses.
posted by valerie (29 comments total)
 
I don't want to urinate on the party, but one must consider that before getting married,"

That's quite an image.
posted by mgtrott at 4:19 PM on May 3, 2001


Why should The State even be involved in our love lives in the first place? If you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, go for it. If not, then don't. No need for "marriage licenses" or other government intrusion.

Parenthood licenses, on the other hand -- now there's an idea that makes sense.
posted by johnb at 4:51 PM on May 3, 2001


yeah, well, thats why he's rod stewart.
posted by tomplus2 at 5:03 PM on May 3, 2001


What's that old saying? "Why buy the dog when you can get the milk fo--" -- wait, nevermind.
posted by bradlands at 5:10 PM on May 3, 2001


Well, Heinlein proposed half-a-century ago a system of term marriage. Ten years, say. Every year might be a little nuts.
posted by dhartung at 6:09 PM on May 3, 2001


"Why should The State even be involved in our love lives in the first place?"

Technically, they're not. And even with this suggestion, they wouldn't be.

There's no law, as far as I know anyway, that says any two people can't live with each other. There's no law saying they can't sleep in the same bed. And there's no law saying they can't have sex. (Unless they live in certain states and are of the same sex.) In fact, in some places, living with a person of the opposite sex for a certain number of years automatically gets you a "common law" marriage. And there's certainly no law against going down to the chapel and getting married, in the religious sense.

The government only becomes involved when you want those nifty little benefits they hand out with marriages. And hey, who wouldn't, right?

I'm rather well-versed in the differences between religious marriage and legal marriage, being the gay man that I am. Every time people opposing gay marriage shout crud like, "But it would cheapen our sacred marriages! God says homosexuality is wrong! Waaah!" I want to scream. If you don't want to marry us in one of your churches, fine. I don't want to be there. Just stay away from my legal rights.

And bringing this back on-topic a little, what do you think "cheapens" marriage more? Allowing gay marriages, or the 50%+ divorce rate among straight ones?
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:41 PM on May 3, 2001


There's no law, as far as I know anyway, that says any two people can't live with each other.

You don't have to be gay...
posted by jpoulos at 7:05 PM on May 3, 2001


The government only becomes involved when you want those nifty little benefits they hand out with marriages. And hey, who wouldn't, right?

I could do without 'em, actually... the idea of "common-law marriage" scares me. I don't want to get married by accident.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:34 PM on May 3, 2001


"You don't have to be gay..."

I count that as a judge abusing an obviously outdated law, not as...well, as anything legitimate.

"I don't want to get married by accident."

Then don't live with the same woman in the same dwelling for seven years? I would think (without knowing anything about the benefits it gives) that the benifits of a common-law marriage would come in handy at that point. And if you disagree, I'm sure you can contest it.
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:52 PM on May 3, 2001


>>Technically, they're not....The government only becomes involved when you want those nifty little benefits they hand out with marriages.

Uh...I don't think I'm following you. Isn't "handing out benefits" a classic example of government involvement?Well, that's the intrusion I'm talking about.

Why is it the function of government to be privileging certain kinds of intimate relationships/nonrelationships over others? Why should there be a "married-straight-person" subsidy rather than, say, a "hermaphroditic hermit" subsidy?

As it happens, I like threesomes with Anna Kournikova and Jennifer Lopez; so when do I get *my* benefits?

Seriously, this just doesn't seem to me to be the kind of thing government bureaucrats should be worrying about.
posted by johnb at 8:27 PM on May 3, 2001


Proposal: Make a law that says marriages can only occur between two people of the opposite sex. In the same bill, create "civil unions" for homosexuals that come with all the same goodies, save for the word 'marriage' itself. Would that work?
posted by aaron at 9:28 PM on May 3, 2001


Sure, that would work. Separate drinking fountains and bus seating worked awfully well too. Semantics? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can still divide us. I'm in no hurry to give up bachelorhood, but when I get married, I want to get married, not unionized.
posted by bradlands at 9:39 PM on May 3, 2001


The divorce rate isn't 50% - it's far less. If a nation has 100,000 marriages per year and 50,000 divorces, it might look like a 50% rate - but those 50,000 divorces are drawn from a pool of millions of marriages that predated that year.

That said, A) gays should be allowed to marry, and B) any representative of the state who shows up at my door to collect the annual marriage tax will be invited into the house, chloroformed, and placed gently in the catapault with a rabid porcupine sewn to his trousers.
posted by lileks at 10:00 PM on May 3, 2001


>>The divorce rate isn't 50% - it's far less.

Demographers now estimate that the probability that a first marriage will end in divorce is about 40%. (The estimate used to be 50%, a few years back.)

See the demographics of divorce. (Also, notably: "Forty percent of the women born in the 1970s will divorce." )

The Census Bureau says essentially the same thing:

"if one assumes a continuation of recent divorce trends, about 4 out of 10 first marriages to the youngest cohort may eventually end in divorce. Alternatively, if one assumes a return to the pattern of divorce during the 1975 to 1980 period, 5 out of 10 first marriages may eventually end in divorce." (Current Population Reports, 1992)
posted by johnb at 10:31 PM on May 3, 2001


Aaron, that's essentially what Vermont is doing. They had to institute civil unions after a court ruling said that said that it was discriminatory not to allow gays to be married. Personally, the only use I can see for marriage is for raising children. Please don't misconstrue that an anti-gay comment. It's an anti-marriage, anti-monogamy, and anti-conformity comment. Besides, gay and lesbian couples (to state the obvious) can raise children too.
posted by rdr at 11:53 PM on May 3, 2001


"Uh...I don't think I'm following you."

Yeah, you're not. The government doesn't become involved in your marriage until you ask them to. It's not an intrusion if you're asking them to do it.

Anyway, I never once said I liked the system, just that that's how it works.

"Make a law that says marriages can only occur between two people of the opposite sex. In the same bill, create "civil unions" for homosexuals that come with all the same goodies, save for the word 'marriage' itself."

Speaking only for myself here, I'd be fine with that. It's not the word I'm after, it's the benefits. All those nice little conveniences like, say, hospital visitation rights power of attourney.

There's a lot of people who agree with me, and there's a lot of people who won't settle for that, wanting the gender bias stricken from the marriage laws instead. To expand on Bradlands' comment, sure, you're getting the same water from the "black" fountain as the "white" fountain, so what's the problem?

"Personally, the only use I can see for marriage is for raising children."

See my above comment on hospital visitation rights, etc. There's more, of course...there's a whole slew of legal rights that come with marriage that have little or nothing to do with children, but rather recognise (in the legal sense) the fact that this person is now a member of your family. Without those rights, as far as the law is concerned you have no more rights regarding your partner than any random man on the street would. No visitations, no power of attourney, nothing to get you insurance money or property if they die or any say in the funeral arrangements, nothing to protect you if they leave the relationship and don't take any of the bills with them, the list goes on.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:22 AM on May 4, 2001


So, cray, you don't really get the whole segregation analogy, huh? Or maybe you think segregation was an ok idea.
posted by Doug at 9:36 AM on May 4, 2001


Doug, I think you need to take a look at this.

In my view, "marriage" is a commitment between two people, made in front of god or whatever, and having nothing to do with the state. All legally sanctioned commitments, gay or straight, should be called "civil unions" or something similar, and all couples should have the same legal rights. And anyone who wants to call himself or herself "married" should be allowed to do so, without the state getting into it.
posted by anapestic at 9:52 AM on May 4, 2001


>>Yeah, you're not. The government doesn't become involved in your marriage until you ask them to.

"My marriage"? I don't have one, that's the point.

If the government offered special legal status and tax breaks to everyone with a tattoo on their left shoulder, it naturally wouldn't be much of a problem for people with a tattoo on their left shoulder-- they could always refuse the benefits. But what about people without a tattoo on their left shoulder? And why does the state need to be involved in the tattoo-on-left-shoulder process to begin with?

If you want to marry your girlfriend, your pet goat, or the Lord of Darkness, then seek approval from the appropriate religious institution. I've nothing against marital bliss. I just also happen to believe in the separation of church and state.
posted by johnb at 10:21 AM on May 4, 2001


The gods will never smile on us until we go to a national sales tax.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:27 AM on May 4, 2001


Anapestic, you're exactly right. I'm a complete idiot.
Cray, I apologize.
posted by Doug at 10:29 AM on May 4, 2001


here's more, of course...there's a whole slew of legal rights that come with marriage that have little or nothing to do with children, but rather recognise (in the legal sense) the fact that this person is now a member of your family.

Why should these rights be tied to the concept of a cohabiting male/female couple?

What I want is to go to the courthouse, get a form, write down my name, somebody else's name, check a box that says "I want this person to have the right to visit me when I'm in the hospital", say, or maybe "I want this person to inherit my stuff when I die", sign it, and turn it in. Nobody should have to care why I want that; it's none of their business. Maybe one person gets "visiting me when I'm in the hospital" and another one gets "power of attorney".

Maybe, to be really convenient, there could be one big form with a lot of checkboxes, so you could pick a bunch of rights you wanted to establish at once. Then, you could just check all the boxes and get something like the current marriage certificate. But that would be up to you, and nobody would need to know what you were doing or why.

It's the overloading of concepts that gets to me. If the goal is to easily establish useful legal arrangements between people, why not set it up so you can easily establish useful legal arrangements between people? Why does marriage need to come into it at all? If you're concerned about the legalities, then it's a la carte civil unions like the ones I've just described that best get you what you're looking for. The only reason to call it "marriage" or to assume that this one particular collection of rights should be wrapped up into one package and based on an assumed sexual/familial relationship is to claim that the government should be involved in what is really a religious ceremony. And everyone here seems to agree that religion and government don't mix.

CrayDrygu:
I would think (without knowing anything about the benefits it gives) that the benifits of a common-law marriage would come in handy at that point. And if you disagree, I'm sure you can contest it.

Why should I have to? It's not as though getting married is difficult. It bothers me that the state assumes that, if I have lived with a woman for X years, then I must have really meant to get married but just never gotten around to it. The idea that the state, in its infinite wisdom, can decide that I would be better off married is just plain offensive.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:38 AM on May 4, 2001


Mars, I agree with you on the common law issue. I'm reasonably certain that, according to Ontario law, I'm effectively married on July 1st (send gifts! :-) because my girlfriend and I will have been living together for 365 days.
posted by cCranium at 11:38 AM on May 4, 2001


Shit. I lost a nice long post. Here goes again . . .

Mars, I'm not sure I understand what you're worked up about. Those "forms" that you seem to want exist! Wills and living wills will allow you to apportion out your estate, specify hospital-visitation rights and medical decisions when incapacitated, etc. You can do all that stuff. My downstairs neighbor, long estranged from his family, has me set up as the executor of his will and estate (read: apartment full of crap), but has someone else entirely set up to make medical decisions for him.

As for the state arbitrarily saying, "Hey, they're married enough for me," what is the concern? If you want to continue to pay the tax rates you're accustomed to, I doubt anyone will argue. I don't see the state hounding you about divorce papers if you break up. Custody laws would go into effect no matter how long you have been going out. The state doesn't monitor mailing addresses of couples to see who's "married" and who isn't, do they? Am I missing something? (I mean, of course I am, but what is it?)
posted by Skot at 11:48 AM on May 4, 2001


"So, cray, you don't really get the whole segregation analogy, huh? Or maybe you think segregation was an ok idea."

So, Doug, you don't really get the whole sarcasm idea, huh? Or maybe you just need to read better.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:31 PM on May 4, 2001


Heh, I really need to read *all* the posts before I reply. Just ignore that one.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:32 PM on May 4, 2001


"I just also happen to believe in the separation of church and state." (johnb)

Alright, trying one more time before I give up. Maybe it's the fact that the Church and the Government are using the same word that's messing you up, so I'm going to invent one. The Church "marries" people. The government "floons" them.

If you want to get married, you go to your Church. If you want to get flooned, you go to Town Hall or wherever. If you want the legal benefits of a proper flooning, but happen not to be Christian, this is fine -- floons do not require marriage. Likewise, if you wish to get married without the government getting involved, then don't go to Town Hall and get a Floonage License. Most people, however, will.

If I'm wrong here, and there is a legal obligation to get flooned after marriage, or to get married before you're flooned, I will be very surprised, but feel free to correct me.

And if you're still questioning why the government should give breaks to people who are marr... flooned, then go back to one of my previous posts where I explain that it's not all about tax breaks. In fact, for me, I'm not even concerned about the tax breaks. I want the hospital to let me in to see my boyfriend if he's hurt.

"What I want is to go to the courthouse, get a form, write down my name, somebody else's name, check a box that says "I want this person to have the right to visit me when I'm in the hospital", say, or maybe "I want this person to inherit my stuff when I die", sign it, and turn it in." (Mars)

I believe you can, assuming the other party agrees. You can give anyone you want Power of Attourney over you, just speak to a lawer to get the proper forms. As for inheriting stuff, it's called a will, I'm surprised you haven't heard of them. The difference is that, if you're married, it's a package deal -- you get all these sort of things taken care of at once. Also, there's an advantage regarding wills, too. If you die and have no will, the government gets to decide where your property goes -- unless you're married. Then your spouse does. Or they just get it all, I'm not sure which.

"It bothers me that the state assumes that, if I have lived with a woman for X years, then I must have really meant to get married but just never gotten around to it."

Again with the not understanding. A "common-law marriage" is not, to my understanding, the same as a regular marriage. Probably a bad choice of words, given the number of people who have difficulty differentiating between to different concepts with similar names.

Having said that, I tend to agree that common-law marriages are not the best idea we've ever come up with.
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:52 PM on May 4, 2001


I don't know about you folks, but my wife and I stay married for just ONE reason...and it ain't the marriage "contract". It's because we love each other and are determined somehow, someway to get under, over, around or through whatever problems we have so we can enjoy the bliss of smooth sailing after passing safely through another storm. It's scary at times...but worth all the frights (sic ... LOL)!

From our perspective, marriage does not exsist because a "license" exsists. It exsists because a positive relationship exsists. By that standard, sadly, most marriages today - aren't.
posted by Jr2001 at 7:50 PM on May 4, 2001


"From our perspective, marriage does not exsist because a "license" exsists. It exsists because a positive relationship exsists."

My thoughts exactly. Thank you. And yes, I find it sad (and almost sickening) that so many people are getting married for inane reasons having nothing to do with loving each other or wanting a relationship. Especially when the priests who marry them say two guys can't get married because it would defile the holy union. I mean, I really don't care if they don't want to, but at least come up with a better excuse.

Anyway, I don't know if any of that post was directed at me, but I'd hate to come off as someone who thinks marriage is just about getting your mate's assets when they kick the bucket. I don't. I've been with my boyfriend for almost two and a half years now, and we've stayed together that long because we can't bear the thought of living our lives without each other.

The fact that I would be totally helpless to do anything if he were seriously injured, or that (once we've been living together for a while) if he dies, I'd probably be in serious financial trouble with no legal recourse for it, however, bothers me. [Likewise in reverse, too.] And I will definitely be looking for legal alternatives to a marriage or civil union if neither is available when the time comes, like filling out all the silly individual forms...they're usually not as enforcable, though, for whatever reason.

*shrug*
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:21 PM on May 4, 2001


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