Marriage: Still A Pretty Awesome Idea!
Editor's Note: This post is being featured along with a post that makes the case against marriage. We wanted to present two different opinions about whether or not marriage is still relevant, important, and valuable today. We hope it sparks engaging conversation - Feminista Jones
I've been dating someone new and we're having an amazing time together. We've had a few conversations about the future, and as it tends to happen when two people talk about such things, marriage came up. When you've been married before – as we've both been – such conversations are a lot less wide-eyed with wonder and excitement than they are practical. Do I want to do that again? When you think about it, the heart-warming, emotional benefits of being married aren't exclusive to matrimony. Anyone in a long-term monogamous relationship gets to participate the soul-satisfying joy of never having to date again, bypassing "choice paralysis", waking up to your best friend every day, having an established support system, confidante, someone to play with and laugh with and have physical intimacy with. So what makes marriage different than a committed relationship?
Image: Rachel Elaine via Flickr
The conversation surrounding marriage equality really helped me get a sense of just how much weight marriage carries. When you look at the fine print, marriage is, without a doubt, an institution that confers preference on couples. This list provides ten reasons why marriage is a great idea:
1. Legally binding
When you get married, you are making a commitment to be together before your community, with legally binding repercussions. If you are a person of faith, being married in your religion before your god has similar, morally binding repercussions. These things have the power to influence how you deal with hardship, whether it happens within the relationship or is an external force. Simply, when something doesn't go according to plan, hope or expectation, you have to consider whether it warrants taking legal action. For people of faith for whom divorce is not an option their conscience allows, saying "I do" is it, with no turning back.
2. Medical decisions and access
While an unmarried couple could draft a power of attorney or advanced medical directive, this can get complex. By getting married, you become "next of kin," meaning you have a right to visit your partner in the hospital as well as power to make medical decisions for him or her in the event of a medical emergency. Because you become family when you're married, you and your partner get coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which enables employees to take time off to care for ailing relatives. This protection, unfortunately, does not extend any guarantees to an unmarried partner.
Unmarried partners are not always able to get joint insurance for things like the car or the home. In terms of health coverage, a large number of companies still do not provide health benefits to unmarried partners. Even if you receive domestic partner health insurance benefits through a partner's company, when you're unmarried, you lose out when it comes time to file taxes. The premium paid by an employer for a spouse is not taxable, but the employer's contribution to the coverage of a domestic partner is. Another drawback of not getting married is lack of protection through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act [COBRA] (1985), which lets former employees and their spouses to stay on employer-provided health insurance plans by paying a premium. The act does not require employers to offer the same considerations to the unmarried partners of former employees. And, of course, unmarried partners don't have access to Medicare.
When it comes to children, married couples have an automatic right to joint parenting and joint adoption, things which are not so easy for unmarried couples. By this same token, kids of unmarried parents don't have an automatic legal relationship with both of their parents in the same way that children of a married couple do. Don't get me started on trying to travel to foreign countries when everyone's last names don't match.
Unmarried couples can't file taxes jointly, which may exclude them from benefits that married couples have access to. There are also incredible disadvantages when it comes to determining taxable income. For instance, if you sell your principal residence, you get to exclude $250,000 from your taxes – unless you're married, in which case the figure goes up to $500,000.
6. Spousal privilege in court
Not that you're planning on having any knowledge of nefarious or unlawful acts committed by your spouse, but being married protects you and a partner in two ways in court: being married protects you from being called to testify against a spouse in court; and any communication that happens between you and your spouse during marriage is considered privileged, meaning that what you share with one another during your marriage is protected from testimonial disclosure (unless spouses are suing each other in civil court or one spouse initiates criminal proceedings against the other, of course). The privileged status continues even after divorce or death. Unmarried couples are not equally protected.