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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Law - Why special legal treatment for married couples?

Saturday's Indianapolis Star published a syndicated column by Froma Harrop with the headline "Singles left out of the deal." Although the article was not available from the Star's website, it is available here today from the Creators Syndicate site. Some quotes:

Quickie marriages get more legal respect than friendships lasting decades. An hour after Britney Spears gets hooked to her next husband, the federal government will shower her with all sorts of rights and benefits not available to the man who has spent eight years caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s.

So here is the point: The push toward gay marriage doesn’t threaten hetero marriages as much as it threatens “the deal.” It puts light on the illogic behind handing a variety of goodies to certain people because some civil authority issued them marriage certificates.

There is a potent political issue here, which could complicate matters for candidates. They must do more than just choose between advocates of gay rights and those of so-called traditional values. They must consider the lot of single Americans, who could cause a ruckus if they ever woke up.

So much attention is paid to married couples that most of the public -- including single people themselves -- thinks of unmarried adults as a marginal minority. Actually, they account for half of America’s grownups. Households headed by single people are now the majority in 13 states and 113 congressional districts.

These districts are wildly diverse. Some include the poorest black inner cities, while others are wealthy and mostly white. In the nation’s richest congressional district -- located on Manhattan’s East Side -- more than 70 percent of the households are headed by unmarried adults.

Government should have no interest in a citizen’s marital status. It certainly has no business sending a bigger tax bill to co-habiting sisters than to a man-and-wife team reporting the same income and deductions.

Marriage is a fine institution and a very important stabilizing force for the raising of children. Some purists will argue that even child tax credits are a kind of social engineering. Using the tax code to help people pay for child expenses seems OK to me. But giving tax breaks to Larry King and his seventh wife -- and in the name of helping children -- is outrageous.

She concludes: "Perhaps the diversity of the group helps explain why unmarried adults haven’t made common cause. They should, and when they do, the whole conversation will change. The real issue will no longer be whether gays should get in on the same marriage deal as heterosexuals, but why the deal exists in the first place."

And today's Star contains a short opinion piece from Star editorial writer RiShawn Biddle. Some quotes:

Now that the Federal Marriage Amendment has been temporarily knocked into history's ashbin, perhaps it's time to consider a ban on heterosexual marriages. Say what? Yes, I said it: Heterosexual marriages should no longer receive government blessing. * * * Why should married couples get special tax privileges or force businesses to extend health care benefits? * * * It's time to put marriage back in its place in the private realm, where it belongs.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 18, 2004 09:28 AM
Posted to General Law Related