The Question of Same Sex Marriage

Wrapping things in bacon means you raise them to a new level of awesomeness — an experiential plane akin to guilty pleasure. Most of the debate surrounding same sex marriage deals with the unfairness of denying homosexual couples the same privileges as heterosexual couples. What are some of those privileges?

  • Visitation rights in the hospital
  • Survivorship social security (SS) benefits
  • Right to transfer property to surviving spouse without paying inheritance tax

So let’s ask the question, is it fair for heterosexual couple to enjoy these benefits and deny them to homosexual couples? Absolutely not, and I’m frankly not familiar with anyone on the right or left who maintains that position. But let me ask a more fundamental question, “Is it fair for married couples to enjoy any benefits not enjoyed by the unmarried (coupled or not)?

  • Shouldn’t you be able to decide who can visit you in the hospital?
  • Is it fair that married couples can transfer SS benefits, but the unmarried can’t?
  • If an inheritance tax is fair, then it should apply to the married and unmarried alike, right?

The fact that homosexuals are being denied equal privileges is a specific example of a much larger problem:

In the U.S., married people represent a privileged class.

The Superset teaches us the danger of privileged classes. Granting privileges unequally gives the gov’t the right to discriminate, and when they have that right, they most always take advantage of it (as seen in the case of same sex couples).

How do we best rectify this injustice? By allowing same sex couples to join the privileged class or by abolishing the privileged class all together?

How did we get here anyway? In the past, marriage had a different meaning than it does today. In the pre-birth control years, sexual activity bore significant risks for women; the risk of being pregnant for 9 months and caring for the child once born. Different societies reacted differently to this risk. In Japan, records of abortion go back hundreds of years. Polynesian islanders resorted to infanticide to keep their populations in check. Many Christian nations adapted by encouraging women to restrict the supply of their sex (i.e. chastity).

It seemed to make sense, in light of the risks that women were assuming when they married, that they needed legal protection. This is at least partly how married people came to form a privileged class. But in the post-birth control years, marriage does not equal procreation. Many mothers are choosing children without marriage, and many married women are choosing to remain childless. This makes the status of “married people as privileged class” very difficult to justify. Also, child support laws protect women and children regardless of whether the child was conceived in a marriage.

So, how to do you do right, not only by homosexuals, but also by all of the underprivileged “unmarrieds”? By granting all of the same rights and protections to all people, irrespective of their marital status. Would that mean that a wife would have to pay an inheritance tax on property received from her husband? Yes, if that’s the standard applied to everyone else. But the good thing about equality is that it makes it much easier to see what is fair and what is unfair. If it is unfair for a lesbian to pay an inheritance tax on property she inherits from her deceased partner (married or unmarried), then the inheritance tax must be inherently unfair as well.