marriage vows to be only means to healthcare

Domestic partner benefits were pioneered in Massachusetts; it's a natural progression that Massachusetts also is the home of the first state-sanctioned gay marriages (in this country, anyway).

But "state-santioned" is the operative phrase here - and the problem.

In today's Boston Globe was a story about the inevitable fallout of gay marriage: namely the loss of healthcare benefits for unmarried partners. Because both gay couples and straight couples in Massachusetts now can be married, companies are cutting the ability for employees to share health insurance with unmarried partners. They say this is a move to re-level the playing field.

It's a move in the wrong direction, but it was the inevitable side effect of gay marriage. Unfortunately in this society, marriages are sanctioned by the state (and often a church), and with the state's blessing come privileges.

At this point in history, it was a more reasonable goal to move toward equality by allowing gay couples to participate in existing establishments rather than to try to dismantle those establishments. But it ends up being a "one step forward and two steps back" situation. On the surface gay marriage appears incredibly progressive, even radical. But it means we give up some benefits gained by unmarried people. Regardless of whether those benefits were initiated for people who could not legally marry, they also served those people who consciously chose not to marry, including polyamorous people (who also can't legally marry); atheists and pagans who see marriage as a function of the church, historically sexist and patriarchal; and people who don't think the government has any business sanctioning their relationships.

People shouldn't have to be married to get heathcare benefits, hospitial and jail visitation rights, rights to court-protected privacy in conversation (wife/husband conversations are treated like doctor/patient and lawyer/client conversations - they are confidential and the court normally cannot make you discose such conversations), tax benefits, pension benefits (if the receiving member dies, pensions almost never would go to a homosexual partner of the deceased, let alone an unmarried heterosexual partner, and of course not any combination of partners) ... the list goes on.

The privileges are an obvious incentive to get married, and the government has an obvious interest in offering privileges to people to maintain the expected and "desireable" societal norm. So if you were wondering what that second step back was, this is it. So long as people feel they are being accomodated and that the government isn't preventing them from doing this thing that is normal in society, so long as their life is comfortable enough (and probably insular) that they don't have to see society's ills, they will remain complacent and the structures of power and domination will remain. We can't break the chains if people are under the illusion that there are no chains.

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