May 20, 2007
Rights and Responsibilities of Marriage
"WHEN the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” little did she know that a century and a half later the list would extend into the thousands — at least for married couples. As of 2005, the Government Accounting Office had identified more than 1,000 legal rights and responsibilities attendant to marriage. The era of big government is clearly not over when it comes to family policy.
These range from the continuation of water rights upon the death of a spouse to the ability to take funeral leave. And that’s just the federal government. States and localities have their own marriage provisions. New York State, for example, grants a spouse the right to inherit a military veteran’s peddler’s license. Hawaii extends to spouses of residents its lower in-state fees for hunting licenses.
No wonder gay and lesbian activists put such a premium on access to marriage rights. Some gay marriage advocates want all spousal rights immediately and will settle for nothing less. Others take an incremental approach, aiming to secure first the most significant domestic partner rights, like employer benefits.
But rather than argue about whether gay or lesbian couples should be allowed to tie the knot, or be granted any marital rights at all, perhaps it is time to do an end run around the culture wars by unbundling the marriage contract into its constituent parts. Then, applying free-market principles, we could allow each citizen to assign the various rights and responsibilities now connected to marriage as he or she sees fit." Dalton conleyl, OpEd Contributor, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 5-20-07 NVS)
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