The speech that got me essentially boo-ed off stage!

 

            How many of you grew up thinking that one day you were going to find that ‘special someone,’ settle down, and have the perfect family? Some of you might have already done so – well, maybe with the exception of the perfect part. But imagine if you were ready to say I do…and the federal government told you that you couldn’t because your someone didn’t fit the government’s criteria, how would you feel? In fact, there are a million other reasons that the federal government should have no say in marriages. Ever heard of separation of church and state? Well, why should an atheist be forced to participate in the religious act of marriage simply for legal reasons? What happens when a church thinks a couple has a valid relationship, but the government refuses to acknowledge it? That’s just the beginning of the problems that government-issued marriages cause. What about the couples who don’t marry just because they don’t want to lose the benefits of being a single parent? That’s something a lot of us college students can relate to, because right a single mother – even one who has a significant other helping her raise her children – can go to school and pay virtually nothing. You might be sitting there thinking “so what? It doesn’t really matter to me,” but I’m here to convince you otherwise. First, I’ll talk about one of the reasons that the government has denied people the right to marry and the religious impact that this has had on their lives. Next, we’ll discuss some of the more legal issues that the current way of viewing marriage causes.  And finally, we’ll talk about one way that these problems can be solved.

            Nick Martin and Christina Prado have a 1 year old daughter. They have been together for many years and want to get married – but they are having a much harder time of it than they ever expected. According to All Things Considered on NPR, Prado is an undocumented immigrant. Even though her boyfriend and would-be husband is a U.S. citizen, a law in Alabama is keeping Martin from marrying the woman he loves.

            Some of you might still be thinking “so what? I’m not in love with an illegal immigrant?” but think about this.According to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, a couple cannot have sex outside of marriage – but what happens if the couple is prevented from marrying by the government? Father Tom Ackerman says that “Whatever their legal status is, they are Catholics. From the Catholic perspective…they have a right to receive the sacraments.” Maybe so, but when a religious leader performs a marriage his actions are not only on behalf of the church – he is also acting on behalf of the state. When the church believes that the marriage is legitimate but the state does not, the government is trespassing on the church and couple’s religious freedom.

            According to the Tuscaloosa News, the Diocese of Birmingham say that the law forces couples to live in sin because the government controls whether an individual can receive the sacraments of the church. Essentially, by forbidding couples to marry, the government has also taken away their right to follow their religious beliefs. And, the San Francisco Chronicle says that “every day, more than 100,000 couples in [California]… hear that their love and committed relationships are not as good as the love and relationships of the strangers who are telling them they have no right to marry.”

            We’ve talked about a few people that have been denied the right to marry, but what about the people who don’t get married in order to escape paying higher taxes? Even couples who can get married are opting out because they can get tax breaks by remaining single. According to The Heritage Foundation, a person who makes about $9 an hour ends up forfeiting about $900 in tax refunds and paying $2,800 in taxes in order to get married. Take the case of my friends, Laura and Andy. They have lived together for nine years, have two children, and own a home together…but they aren’t married. Laura and Andy are both committed to one another and their family, but because they can get free food, college courses, and sometimes even housing as long as Laura is a single mother, the couple chooses not to marry. This creates a problem, because according to Fox News, “Utah taxpayers spend as much as $276 million/year for costs associated with divorced and unwed parents.” Under the current system of acknowledging a committed relationship, the couple is able to “cheat the system” by not getting married. Or what about a lesbian couple that I know? Both women are mothers, but since the government won’t allow the couple to marry, they are receiving the benefits of being single mothers by default. According to Forbes, “Even though affording a down payment [on a home] is tough for most singles, they stand to benefit more than married people from the tax code.”

            So how can we fix these problems? The answer is actually very simple: Civil Unions.

 Not only would government issued Civil Unions fix the religious problem attached to marriage, it would also take care of the problem of couples living together without marrying in order to receive tax breaks. If our government issued Civil Unions to couples, it would not need to bother with marriages. Couples could be married by their religious leader regardless of the government’s views about the legitimacy of the marriage. If a certain church held the belief that homosexual couples should not marry, then they would not be forced to marry the couples – and vice versa: if a church felt that a homosexual marriage was acceptable, then they would have the right to sanctify that marriage. The same would hold true for the Catholic Church – solving the dilemma that they are currently facing with undocumented immigrants.

            Regardless of whether or not they were married, every couple would be seen equally in the eyes of the government. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a report by a state-review commission found that “Civil-union status is not clear to the general public, which creates a second-class status.” If the government only issued Civil Unions, homosexuals would no longer have the status of ‘separate but equal’ in the eyes of the government either, because everyone would have Civil Unions.

            Of course, the practice of taxing people differently would not go away completely – and this is the purpose of the Civil Union. After any couple – married or not – has lived together for five years, the government would automatically issue them a Civil Union, meaning that all of the people trying to or even inadvertently escaping higher taxes by being unwed would be automatically accounted for. Married couples may argue that this creates problems when they have children before the five years are up, but it actually gives them an advantage by allowing them to have the tax benefits that single parents do for those five years. Many people worry that allowing Civil Unions for non-traditional families would destroy the family unit. But there are many ways that the government could easily fix this problem and encourage a stronger family structure. By requiring a couple to live together for at least five years before they receive a Civil Union, the government encourages stability. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 52% of adults 25 and older have been divorced. The five-year stipulation may be enough of an encouragement for couples to stay together – it’s likely that they’ll think “hey, I’ve made it five years…why should I leave now?”

            I’m sure we can all agree that the problems created by government-issued marriages are serious ones. The government is virtually standing in the back of the room waiting to pipe up when it hears “speak now or forever hold your peace.” And people are slipping through the cracks of the federal tax system because our government hasn’t adapted to the changes in society. It’s obvious that the idea of government-issued Civil Unions it is capable of fixing even the most serious of these problems. course, this change is never going to happen unless we start talking about it. I encourage you to write to your senator or congressperson about this issue because it is an important one. Even if you don’t want to write a letter, you can make a difference just by talking about the idea. Remember – the problem isn’t fixed just because we’ve thought of a solution for it; so please, spread the word and encourage debate – generations from now they’re going to thank you for it.

 

 

 


Works Cited

 

Alabama Immigration Law Causing Marriage Discord.” All Things Considered. April 25,    2008.             <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89958678&gt;       Retrieved 26 April, 2008.

Carter, Laurie. “Don’t deny couples the right to marry.” The San Francisco Chronicle. March 5,       2008. <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/05/EDL9VCR5F.DTL&gt;      Retrieved 26 April, 2008

“Divorced and Unwed Parents Cost Utah Taxpayers a Bundle.” Fox. April 15, 2008.             <http://www.myfoxutah.com/myfox/pages/Home/Detail;jsessionid=9D299C701E61D70            35EC205CA377C4EC7?contentId=6317319&version=2&locale=EN-            US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1> Retrieved 27 April 2008

Hester, Tom Jr. “Civil-union law under fire.” The Philidephia Inquirer. February 20, 2008             <http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20080220_Civil-union_law_under_fire.html&gt; Retrieved 24 April, 2008

“No SSN? No license to marry.” Tuscaloosa News. December 16, 2007
            <http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20071216/NEWS/476548576/1007&gt;          Retrieved 26 April, 2008.

“Saying ‘I Do’….To Higher Taxes.” The Heritage Foundation. August 30, 2000. <             http://www.heritage.org/Press/Commentary/ed083000.cfm&gt; Retrieved 24 April, 2008.

“Valentine’s Day 2008: Feb. 14” U.S. Census Bureau. February 14, 2008.     <http://www.census.gov/Press-            Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/010968.html>             Retrieved 24 April, 2008.

Van Riper, Tom. “The Cost Of Being Married Versus Being Single.” Forbes. July 25, 2006.             <http://www.forbes.com/2006/07/25/singles-marriage-money-   cx_tvr_06singles_0725costs.html> Retrieved 25 April, 2008.

 

 

           

 

 

 

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One Response

  1. I came across your blog on Technorati. Nice site layout. I will stop by and read more soon.

    Mike Harmon

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