Thursday, June 23, 2005

"News:" Tom and Katie: Is the ring the thing?

Who knows? Perhaps Tom and Katie are the real deal. But does this AP reporter really believe that marriages are not often strategic alliances?

From AP: "Ever since Cruise and Holmes, 26, went public with their relationship in April, smooching and posing for photographers in Rome, many have doubted the romance - the words 'publicity stunt' have rained down on the couple like an alien invasion.
While Cruise's new film, War of the Worlds, has yet to open, Holmes' Batman Begins hit U.S. theaters Wednesday. Skeptics may still decry the romance, but it's difficult to doubt a relationship when a ring is involved."

Friday, June 10, 2005

News: Tax Rules

I believe all married couples should be treated as individuals in state and federal tax code. The answer to a question on about an unmarried couple and housing taxes could be the way that such matters are handled by all families.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Overheard: Oprah and Sharon Stone

Oprah Winfrey: …I remember when you got married, you said you really didn't want to be married or didn't want to get married.

Sharon Stone: Well, you know, I'm kind of a hippie.

Winfrey: Yeah.

Stone: So I never was into that whole like government gets your like...

Winfrey: Yeah.

Stone: ...`Hello, government, I'm signing up for this with this person and aren't you glad?'

Winfrey: Yeah. Yeah.

Stone: It wasn't my--I never got that as the--that makes you committed to a person.

Winfrey: Then why did you do it?

Stone: I think you're committed in your heart.

Winfrey: I think you either are or not.

Stone: Right.

Winfrey: Yes.

Stone: I mean...

Winfrey: And no piece of paper can...

Stone: And I know you're into that with Stedman.

Winfrey: Yes!

Stone: It's like you're...

Winfrey: You're talking to the choir leader. Yeah.

Stone: They're either--it's either you commit to that person innately...

Winfrey: Yes.

Stone: ...or you don't.

Winfrey: And no piece of paper can make it otherwise.

Stone: Right.

Winfrey: Yeah.

-- The Oprah Winfrey Show, Harpo Productions,
broadcast May 27, 2004.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

News: Fornicaters beware!!

A recent Reuters story chronicles odd state laws still on the books against swearing, owning skunks and living togehter without the government's blessing. Seven states (North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and North Dakota) have laws against cohabitation. Meanwhile, four other states (Illinois, Minnesota, South Carolina and Utah) still make it illegal to have sexual relations outside of wedlock. Do it and you're committing the crime of fornication.

AtMP's Dorian Solot is quoted here, noting that "The good news is most of these laws are not enforced, as far as we know," said Solot. "They occasionally come up when a prosecutor is already looking into an individual and may decide to throw another charge at them."

Friday, May 20, 2005

News: A Debate at Legal Affairs: Should Marriage Be Abolished?

Over at Legal Affairs, "the magazine at the intersection of life and law," Mary Lyndon Shanley and Linda McClainde go at it over the state of marriage and the law. Shanley argues that civil unions should replace state-based marriage while McClainde argues that marriage is an evolving institution worth preserving.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

News: "New Jersey: A State That Doesn't Hate"

A new poll by Zogby and Garden State Equality out this week says that 55% of New Jersey voters support gay marriage. And by nearly a two to one margin, New Jerseyans also say that their state legislature should not seek to ban gay marriage by constitutional amendment.

After helping to pass the state’s domestic partnership law last year, the organization Garden State Equality has organized an series of town hall meetings on the issue of gay marriage under the slogan: "New Jersey: A State That Doesn't Hate." The next meeting will be in Maplewood on Sunday, July 10, 2005, featuring Congressman Barney Frank.

The poll also asks if voters would consider casting a ballot for former Governor Jim “I am a gay American” McGreevey should he ever seek statewide office again. 49% say they would consider voting for McGreevey. 43% say they would not vote for him, but not because he’s gay. 6% report that they would never support McGreevey as he is gay.

News: Marriage and The Case of Terry Schiavo

Terry Schiavo's case has pointed out to married folks what many unmarried couples are already knew. While doctors tend to honor the wishes of the next of kin, in this case husband Michael Schiavo, this was not the case this time when Ms. Schaivo's parents contested that right. Couples, regardless of their legal status, need to be more vigilent when it comes to health care decisions and the law. which people have the power to make health care decisions for them.

In the wake of the Schiavo controversy, thousands have signed living wills, but in many states this document is insufficient and wouldn't have prevented the Schiavo conflict. It's the often overlooked establishment of power of attorney for health care matters which establishes a clear decision maker. Many married couples that is a critical and often overlooked step, particularly for married couples who might assume these decisions would be left up to their spouse. FindLaw and Nolo offer excellent information about drawing up these documents.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Commentary: The End of Marriage?

The Beginning of The End of Marriage?

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer was right to rule last month that there exists "no rational purpose" to justify withholding marriage licenses from gay and lesbian couples. And now the nation’s most populous state is poised to follow Massachusetts and become the second in the union to permit same-sex marriages.

The bells are ringing: this is a moment for gay pride and a celebration of liberal inclusiveness. The decision paves the way for the extension of public benefits to a wider range of families and the legal recognition of couples who have historically been branded deviants.

This decision is an extension of the logic of Loving v. Virginia where, only 38 years ago, the Supreme Court forced states to abandon the argument that interracial marriage constituted a “corruption of blood.” Anti-miscegenation laws were premised on the idea that if God intended the races to mix, he wouldn’t have placed them on separate continents.

Then with race as now with sexuality, defenders of traditional marriage warn that should the institution be amended, we would find ourselves on a slippery slope that would destroy the structure of family and society. Change the rules and all kinds of folks will be asking to wed, turning marriage into an abomination. Platonic pals, siblings and parties of five would step up to demand rights that are not theirs by nature. Depraved anarchy would surely follow!

In a way, I agree with them. To open up marriage to anything other than one man plus one woman would forever alter the institution. It rightly calls into question the rationale for the distribution of public benefits according to a narrow definition of what constitutes a proper family.

Vermont’s civil unions, for example, allows for the registration of “non-sexual pairs.” To counter the argument that lesbian and gay couples would be granted “special rights” denied to other pairs, like “maiden aunts,” a special category of rights and responsibilities was established called reciprocal benefits.

A decade ago, I met a woman named Sylvie who, with her sister, inherited a large house from their parents. It had been in the family for generations and the sisters lived there on and off, through marriages and divorces, and while caring for their parents and a great aunt. At the time, both were content to be single. The sisters decided to raise their five children together; Sylvie earned a good living and her sister worked at home taking care of their kids. While Sylvie’s two children enjoyed the benefits of her health insurance, they had to purchase coverage for her sister, niece, and nephews, as they were not eligible for coverage under her family plan. It is this sort of arrangement that highlights the problems of narrowly defining families and tying benefits such as health insurance to marriage.

Across millennia, marriages have been blessed by an intermingled set of religious and state authorities, but there is nothing that makes it an inherently civil matter. In the name of separation between church and state, such relations could be designated “civil unions” while the term “marriage” would signify a strictly religious affair. Legal scholar Martha Fineman has argued that state-sponsored marriage ought to be replaced with private contracts between two or more individuals whose relations would be governed by their own legally binding needs and desires.

This is a moment to take stock of not just how far we’ve come in terms of gay rights and recognizing family diversity, but to notice how far we still have to go. Kramer’s decision will, of course, be challenged vigorously by conservative groups. But if, in the long haul, this ruling is a turning point in rethinking marriage as an institution, it’s truly a time to celebrate.