November 18, 2008

Some thoughts on Proposition 8

While the passage of Proposition 8 is tragic, there is a greater scope for change here. Though marriage rights should be extended to couples of ALL kinds, the bigger travesty is that there are a set of rights that are ONLY available to married couples. When there are many families that are composed of non-traditional participants (meaning something other than parent-parent-child), particularly in low-income situations, we need laws that reflect the needs of these familes, not just married couples.

Several rules rely on the requirement of marriage to enable access - healthcare, insurance, adoption rights, and many more. The disturbing part is that making marriage more ubiquitous comes at the cost of those families composed of non-coupled members. For example, when Massachusetts opted for greater marriage equality, this came at the cost of several private institutions revoking health insurance access for non-married domestic partners. For a family composed of a woman, her father and her niece who all rely on the woman's job for access to health insurance, this access is no longer an option. Because many queer individuals experience alienation from their traditional families, many come together in their own alternative family structures, which may or may not center around a couple structure. While marriage equality promotes access for those who choose traditional couple-dom, what does it do for those in families that do not?

I am not opposing marriage equality. I think marriage, as a symbol of love and commitment, should be accessible to all who want it. However, in its current form, marriage is more than just that symbol. It is used as a means to promote unequal access to several economic and social institutions, many of which represent basic human rights (health, for example).

Though making marriage universal allows a greater amount of access to those who choose marriage, it also passively works against those families (queer and straight) who live in families that have no place for this traditional institution, but need the "perks" that come with it.