Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How The Pill Created the Gay Marriage Lobby

Bombastic title, no?
This a post guaranteed to piss off just about everyone who reads it. Not that I need to worry because nobody will, but... away we go:

What Marriage Is Really About
As best I can tell the Western, monogamous marriage has never been in the interest of men, and rarely in the interest of women. In agricultural days, two people working on a farm couldn't do much more than survive. Ask any feminist about the time from the Industrial Revolution to the advent of The Pill and she'll give you a laundry list of how marriage screwed women. If she starts in on why men are pigs, you'll also get the explanation of why marriage isn't in a man's interest. No, the only people who really made out well in the traditional marriage were the kids. And that's the whole point. The institution of marriage makes raising children economically feasible. All of the benefits bestowed on married couples today (common property, right of inheritance, Social Security and health benefits for spouses and children, etc.) are either bestowed on the family unit as a whole or were created to ensure that the surviving spouse (and now sole guardian of the children) received full access to the assets of the deceased spouse as a default position because they were also the guardian of the deceased's children.

What The Pill Has To Do With It
Before The Pill came along, any woman who got married before the age of 30 could expect to be a mother. Since this covered something like 99% of all marriages, it was reasonable to assume at a societal level that marriage=children. With that being the case, it was common sense to extend any societal benefits for having and raising children to all married couples. Sure there were some winter marriages, sure there were some barren marriages, but it was close enough for government work.
With the advent of 99.9% effective birth control and significantly longer life spans, marriages have been increasingly decoupled from child-bearing. Throw in the no fault divorce (which is really just another effect of the same factors) and you decouple marriage from child-rearing. Basically, marriage is no longer a good standard to use when extending "family" benefits.
Note: In some sense I use "The Pill" as a way to define all of the socially disruptive medical advances of the past 40-50 years.

Creating A Gay Marriage Lobby
As The Pill created more marriages where child-bearing was delayed or foregone altogether, a growing population of heterosexuals were receiving the above described benefits of marriages (common property, right of inheritance, Social Security and health benefits for spouses and children, etc.) without the burdens of raising children. Compared to single people and unmarried couples, they were making out like bandits. Since the no fault divorce made separation possible at any time, there was little downside - especially as the gender income gap decreased. If you both started with nothing and had similar earning tracks, about half was a good trade.
When discrimination based on sexual preference was outlawed, it was only a matter of time before same sex couples started asking (rightly, in my opinion) why they couldn't get the benefits of married couples. I think it's a fair question.

A Proposal
I think the best societal solution for this is one that gives a set of benefits to people who declare their intent to have a long-term relationship as a couple (health benefits, next-of-kin status, default heir if there is no will), and another set of benefits for people who have children together. I'm not really in favor of fighting churches over the definition of marriage. As far as I'm concerned, they have dibs on the name. If I were writing a bill, I'd create a Life-Partner designation and state that all marriages performed by churches grant a couple life-partner status. I would define a separate Adult With Dependent Children status. If the government really wanted to encourage traditional marriages, it could designate that people holding both designations get extra tax-breaks, etc. I don't see why the government should be tied to the word marriage.