What’s the point of marriage? In our modern society, does it serve any useful purpose? Why do we define a romantic and sexual relationship with a legal contract?
In the past, marriage may have had a purpose. It defined women as the property of men, and allowed men to control women, their fertility and their children. It supposedly defined paternity and allowed for complex property law based on inheritance. It also defined the obligations of each partner to the other and supposedly made men responsible for providing for their children.
Now, none of this is relevant. People are not property. A relationship is a voluntary and conditional thing that each party can enter into or exit from at any time for any reason. We have laws defining the financial and legal responsibilities of parents as individuals, so that each parent is responsible for the welfare of their children regardless of the children’s other parent.
We are also gradually moving towards a legal system which sees it as each individual’s responsibility to financially support themselves, so when divorce or separation occurs, each parent is obligated to financially provide for their children but not for each other. The existing situation where a non-custodial parent has been financially destroyed by excessive child maintenance payments (which effectively means ex-partner maintenance) is being replaced by a situation where payments for child support are more transparent.
Equally, joint ownership of real estate and other property can be effectively managed through property law, not through marriage law.
Rather than some marginalised people having to fight for legal equality because of relationship discrimination, such as to allow de facto partners (gay or straight) having access to sick partners in hospital, superannuation payments, and so on, it would be far simpler to define each person as an individual and allow them to nominate a significant partner for legal purposes, similar to an enduring power of attorney.
For social security payments and other government payments, the present system makes no sense. It determines what each person is eligible for based on who sleeps in the same bed as them, not on what income they receive. I could live separately from my partner, for example, but still be financially supported by them. This arrangement, however, would be invisible to the government. Conversely, just because I cohabit with someone I may have sex with, why does that alter how the government defines me? I may be in a cohabiting sexual relationship where I am not financially supported by my partner. How could I prove this when all the government wants to know is who I’m fucking and where?
The underlying assumptions about relationships, money, property and identity held by society and the government are an antiquated nonsense. Living in a government recognised cohabiting sexual relationship (in other words, heterosexual) gives me more legal rights and opportunities in some circumstances. Why is this the case? This is pure discrimination.
Marriage should disappear. It’s legal shadow, ‘de facto’ marriage or relationships, should also disappear. Each of us should be considered by the law in all areas to be an autonomous individual with rights and responsibilities. Who I choose to fuck and where I choose to fuck them is no one else’s business. It is not economic activity. It is social activity. Sex is a recreational activity like golf or dining out.
Except, of course, it is economic when the government sees sex as work that earns income. “In economic terms, marriage is simply one form of prostitution.”
As one blogger (perhaps) satirically wrote: “Marriage? What are you crazy? It only makes sense if you can marry up and cash in.” Another US blogger, Christopher Paige, writes:
Ultimately, the Gay Marriage Campaign will destroy marriage, at least marriage as it currently exists. Instead of seeking to have gay marriages approved, Gay Rights Groups would probably do much better, from a legal perspective, to litigate to have all marriages declared null and void, on the grounds that all marriages are contracts for sex. Once sex is removed from marriage, the state won’t care if the parties marrying are of the same sex or of the opposite, or even if the parties are related. Can you imagine “religious/family values groups” arguing in court that they need marriage to include the “contracting for sexual services” provision?