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5 Ways We Still Don’t Have Marriage Equality In The US

Just a few years ago, back in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry extends to same-sex couples. It was a really big deal, and now it just feels like the new normal. Which makes now a great time to remember how the fight for same-sex marriage never really attempted to address a broader range of issues that stand in the way of meaningful “marriage equality.”

And, just to be clear, we’re not even touching the ongoing international fights for same-sex marriage, the threat that same-sex marriage could be repealed, or the many other places where our country’s policies have regressed in the meantime. These are just the longstaning, unresolved issues. Here are 5 Ways We Still Don’t Have Marriage Equality in the US.

Economics

The economics of marriage isn’t just about the cost of legal paperwork, having a wedding party, or even the possibility of divorce. Getting married can also have a huge affect on how your taxes and benefits are calculated, which can be critical if you’re poor or have a disability.

Many folks with disabilities rely on social welfare programs, which may be cut off is there’s a spouse that can theoretically provide for them, even if the material reality hasn’t actually changed. On the flip side, being married can also be critical to people who have disabilities and want to make sure their partner can visit them in the hospital and make medical decisions.

Call me romantic, but I think marriage should be a heartfelt decision about building a life together, not the transfer of women as property OR a calculated cost/benefit analysis.

(Want some links? Here’s something more technical, and here’s something more personal.)

Incarceration

It’s grossly disproportionately people of color who are imprisoned. Here’s the numbers. And if you think the fact that occasionally people in prison are allowed to get married somehow discounts the broader point I’m making about actual access to marriage or the way prison rips families apart, well, you’re definitely not going to be completely sold by my arguments in the next section.

Immigration

Did you think getting married was a quick and easy way to become a citizen, or any sort of guarantee you’d actually be able to live in the same place as your spouse? The short answer: it’s not.

When same-sex marriage was the topic of the day, a lot of people argued that gay people already had equal access to marriage, since a gay man could marry a women exactly the same as a straight man could. That’s a really stupid argument. Look, I’m not saying this is a perfect analogy, I’m just saying that it’s not really equality if all we each have is access to completely unequal situations.

And that we need immigration reform.

Nonmonogamy

It’s nice that I could marry my girlfriend. It’s nice that if I had a boyfriend I could marry him instead. But what if I had a girlfriend and a boyfriend?

I don’t have time for my full pitch on how common nonmonogamy actually is, why it’s a healthy relationship structure for many people, or why none of this should actually be a big deal, but here’s the upshot: If marriage is about love, and some people love more than one person, we should let people marry more than one person.

And, yes, there are some specifics we’d need to work out. Much like lots of other changes to how our laws work. And also yes, I was always hoping same-sex marriage would be a slippery slope to this one, but I never kept that a secret.

I’ll leave you to sort through a Google search of “marriage,” “equality,” and “polyamory” for this one. I mean, I’m not the first one to say any of this stuff.

Unmarried Equality

If money shouldn’t be a reason people can’t get married, it shouldn’t be a reason people have to get married either. But tax breaks and health insurance benefits are a huge part of why so many people do. Any model that pushes people towards marriage as a basic necessity for survival is a coercive system that denies people their individual agency and autonomy.

I’m sorry, I think we’re just going to have to reform taxes and overhaul health care too.

(Here’s a link on that one.)