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The Pressing Issue of Sham Gay Marriages

This, sadly, is not an April Fools’ joke. (Gotcha with that last one, though, right??)

Sue Everhart, chairwoman of the Georgia Republican Party, on same-sex marriage:

You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow. Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.

Sometimes people just come so close to the source of the problem but then still manage to veer off into complete idiocy.

Of course there would be same-sex couples who’d get married just for the benefits if same-sex marriage were legal where they live. There are already straight couples who do that. Hasn’t Everhart ever seen The Proposal? (Ignoring the part where they totally unrealistically fall in love, that is, because romcom.) And couldn’t gay men and lesbians just marry each other for the benefits, too?

Perhaps Everhart lives in a fantasy land in which people are only friends with others of the same gender, meaning that legalized same-sex marriage would indeed make it easier for people to shack up just for the benefits. But that’s not really how friendship works, especially since the need for healthcare and green cards goes beyond gender.

The truth that Everhart came so close to but still managed to completely miss is that federal benefits for married couples are fundamentally unfair. Why should having a certain type of relationship entitle you to special prizes? And don’t give me that crap about promoting procreation; we already heard it last week in the Supreme Court arguments. First of all, we give married couples those benefits even when no procreation is reasonably going to happen, and second, if you really believe that what this world most desperately needs are additional humans, I feel sad for you.

Everhart clearly thinks that marrying “for the benefits” is the wrong reason to get married. But what’s the right reason? Because one of you got pregnant and abortion is wrong? Because you need someone to provide for you (or take care of your household)? Because your families want to exchange property? Because you “truly” love each other and not just “as friends,” whatever that means?

Assuming that getting married “for the benefits” is Bad, well, that’s the problem when the government chooses to incentivize certain kinds of human relationships with material benefits, and when health care is only available to those who are given insurance by their employer, who can afford to buy insurance or pay for healthcare out of pocket, or who can marry someone to get on their insurance plan. Why should you only have that “wonderful health plan” of which Everhart speaks if you happen to have the right employer or be married to the right person? None of these things should be tied to marriage. But if they’re going to be, it’s only fair that same-sex couples have access to them, too.

Cultural phenomena like marriage are constantly changing in meaning and purpose. It used to be that most marriages were essentially “for the benefits”–for the husband’s family to get a dowry and carry on their family name, for the wife’s family to get the bride price, for the wife to have financial support, for the husband to have a housewife and a source of sexual gratification, for both families to receive social advantages of some sort, and so on. So, either Everhart should condemn all forms of marriage-for-benefits, or she should acknowledge that it only bothers her when the gays do it.

Conveniently, she basically did just that: “Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this, but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married. If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”

All I can say to that is that I truly feel sorry for Everhart if she really thinks that P-in-V is the only way to have sex.

Comments

  1. smrnda says

    As if no two people of the opposite sex ever got married to take advantage of the legal perks and nothing else. I know of at least three couples who did this – green card marriages, I knew two people who got married since it got them better financial aid for college as if you are married, it is your income, not your parents’ income, which counts when they figure financial aid.

    Who exactly does she think decides who is getting married for the right reasons? Folks on the Right tell people to get married because sex outside of marriage is sinful – so getting married just to have sex is somehow the right way to go? Given their emphasis on ‘different roles’ for men and women, their vision of marriage is more or less a business transaction.

    I wanted to add that the marriages and relationships of asexual are often disparaged since they don’t have or aren’t about sex; they can’t seem to figure out that something most people view as essential might not be to everyone. I get a bit tired of people having to knock other people’s relationships. It isn’t like every sexual pairing of a man and a woman is deep and profound and everything else is shallow and meaningless.

  2. chigau (not my real name) says

    Miri
    Thanks a bunch.
    I have been years formulating an argument for ‘civil unions’ being the only ones recognised by the Government:
    - a “civil union” would automatically convey all the rights that “traditional marriage” does now…
    - “marriage” would be a religious ceremony with whatever goats and blue mud was required by the cult…
    - if the “married” want to be acknowledged by the Government, they need to sign a civil union contract…
    - most people will skip the muddy goats.
    it was going well (inside my head).
    Now you say, “Why should having a certain type of relationship entitle you to special prizes?”
    and I’m back to square one.
    Really, thank you.

    • says

      Are you being sarcastic? I can’t tell.

      I mean, if anyone can think of a good reason for the government to incentivize marriage/civil unions, by all means, I’m open to hearing it. It’s just that the only one I ever hear is “BUT THERE NEED TO BE MOAR BABBYS”

      • chigau (not my real name) says

        Miri
        I am absolutely NOT being sarcastic.
        “Marriage” conveys a lot more than babbys.
        Being a “spouse” automatically conveys property rights, inheritance rights and rights to emergency medical decisions that supersede “genetic” rights.
        We should all have a spouse (especially if our genetic relatives are not quite trustworthy).

        • says

          But why should any of this have anything to do with romantic relationships? Shouldn’t anyone who wants to be able to draw up a legal contract with another person that provides them with these rights? If I’m unmarried but want my best friend to be able to make medical decisions for me if I’m incapable, shouldn’t I be able to do that? Why should people have to enter a romantic relationship with one other person to be able to designate someone with whom they would like to co-own property?

          Also, that still doesn’t address issues like health insurance. Why should someone have to get a romantic partner and formalize that relationship through marriage in order to be able to see a doctor if they need to?

          • chigau (not my real name) says

            Yes.
            All of that.
            Hence my back at square one.
            Marriage automatically gives property and decision rights (and insurance) to the spouse.
            In one tidy package.
            Maybe we don’t need tidy packages.
            (but dividing it gives more work to lawyers)

          • says

            True, but just because something’s easier or simpler doesn’t make it right. Currently, people who are unable or unwilling to commit to a long-term romantic relationship with one person are either denied these benefits or forced to fake it.

            Furthermore, none of this explains how tax incentives for marriage are fair.

      • says

        One reason that I heard fairly recently was that people cohabiting puts less strain on infrastructure and consumes fewer resources. One partner agreeing to cover for another’s needs can take a person off the welfare rolls, people living together reduces the wear on the roads since there’s not as many people going to the grocery stores, that kind of thing.

  3. jamessweet says

    I’m actually rather surprised that this argument isn’t made more often, because you actually have to think about it for a few seconds to realize why it doesn’t apply. I remember this occurring to me when the concept of same-sex marriage first entered my consciousness — i quickly dismissed it, of course, but it’s actually a secular and ostensibly rational* argument against marriage equality, so it is strange to me that you almost never hear it. (*What I mean by “ostensibly rational” is that it attempts to reason from point A to point B, without making blatantly irrational assertions out of the blue. There are omitted premises which, when examined, are obviously ridiculous; but it’s more “logic-y” in flavor than the usual arguments of “Ew, teh buttseks!” or “GO JEEBUS!”)

    • says

      I’m actually rather surprised that this argument isn’t made more often, because you actually have to think about it for a few seconds to realize why it doesn’t apply.

      Well, you’d have to make some sort of case for why 1) this doesn’t already happen, or 2) why same-sex couples would do this more than heterosexual couples. The former would be blatant denialism, and the latter would require twisting your brain into a pretzel. :P

  4. smrnda says

    I think the irrational assumption is that there’s some agreed upon idea about what marriage is ‘supposed to be’ to the extent that if a couple gets married and does not have X they have a ‘sham marriage.’ The purpose of marriage is up to the people who are married to each other, the way that the purpose of art is up to the artist.

    Not sure why marriages get special incentives. For people in polyamorous relationships, it doesn’t quite work despite them meeting requirements for commitment love and cohabitation. There’s no reason to assume that sexual or romantic relationships should get special perks that others are excluded from. If the issue is children, children come with their own set of benefits you get even if you aren’t married when you have them (with obligations to all parties whose children they are.) I think the legal perks of marriage should be easier to confer on any person or people you want, with some kind of ways of dealing with disagreement among other parties (if I have a relationship with 3 people and I am incapacitated, there has to be some way of handling the fact that the remaining 2 parties might not agree on what is done to me.)

    My problem is I don’t have a name for what I think we should have. “Tribal affiliation” sounds a bit silly, though I use it when I promote what I think we should have. Why can’t I declare a few people member of my tribe and then pay insurance premiums for them so they can have health care?

    • Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

      My problem is I don’t have a name for what I think we should have. “Tribal affiliation” sounds a bit silly, though I use it when I promote what I think we should have. Why can’t I declare a few people member of my tribe and then pay insurance premiums for them so they can have health care?

      “Household?”

      • smrnda says

        Household sounds nice, though people within The Group may not all live together; even among couples, there’s a trend in “Living apart together” (I think the expression comes from Denmark) where a couple is together, but maintains separate residences. I think our language is just inadequate since it’s locked us into the single or married (two people) exclusively for so long.

        I wonder if there is a good word in some other language…

  5. chigau (not my real name) says

    Miri

    Furthermore, none of this explains how tax incentives for marriage are fair.

    Quite right.
    I am Canadian and living in Canada and I have not heard of anything like that here (maybe Quebec).

  6. arno says

    In a country with a functioning welfare system, it is to some extent reasonable for tax-incentives etc for marriages, assuming that spouses have to support each other prior to general welfare.

    Regarding the other legal aspect of marriage: What is offered here is a legal template, so people do not have to negotiate all details for themselves (but they should be able to, provided there is some protection for “weaker” partners).

    None of the two aspects needs sex to happen for it to make sense though.

    • says

      In a country with a functioning welfare system, it is to some extent reasonable for tax-incentives etc for marriages, assuming that spouses have to support each other prior to general welfare.

      Can you explain how? I’m not disagreeing, I just don’t see the connection yet.

      • arno says

        Two people, A and B. A is securely well-off, whereas B has a 50% chance of falling below the poverty-line.

        Situation 1: A and B are married, and receive tax breaks of T$ for this. If B falls below the poverty-line, both will live of A’s income.

        Situation 2: They are not married, and do not receive tax breaks. If B falls below the poverty-line, the state has to pay W$ of welfare to support B.

        The expected cost for the state is T$ in the first case, and 0.5W$ in the second case, so as long as the tax benefits given for married couples is not too large compared to the potentially avoidable benefits and the risk of them being needed, the state can save money due to the marriage.

        Such a system is more or less in place in Germany, where couples have to pay less tax than both partners individually (which does not apply to same-sex partners, unfortunately), but are only eligible for certain types of benefits if they are both poor, not if one person is poor and the other one sufficiently rich.

  7. fastlane says

    I can see the next line of Hallmark cards now:

    Happy Anniversary, I’m just in it for the federal benefits! :)

  8. Phillip IV says

    I think at this state of the game it’s a safe bet that any new argument brought forward to oppose equality is going to be mind-numbingly stupid. Their best arguments were weak enough, but they’ve long ago exhausted those. Then came the less good ones. Then the bad ones. Then the horribly bad ones…

    Currently they are happily scraping away in the sewers below the cellar with the apple barrel, having already scraped through the floor and the bottom of the barrel.

  9. hoary puccoon says

    The best reason I can see for having incentives to marry is that having some kind of legal protection tends to increase stable households, and stable households are good for society. People are more likely to invest in houses and cars, for instance, if they are in stable relationships. (The way my husband finally got me to marry him, after years of living together, was to make marriage a condition for buying a house.)

    We don’t question that the government should encourage economic growth by giving legal protection to business partnerships. Domestic partnerships have some of the same aspects of benefitting the country as a whole. But if the point is that encouraging partnerships is good government policy because it promotes the general welfare of the country, then refusing marriage to people who are eager for it makes no sense at all.

    • says

      Well, either people “naturally” want to form stable partnerships, in which case there’s no need for incentives, or they don’t, in which case incentives may compel people to enter unhealthy or even abusive partnerships in order to get those benefits.

      Also, I don’t mean to pry into your personal life, but that sounds a bit manipulative on your husband’s part.

      Business partnerships need legal protection for different reasons. It’s risky to put your money and livelihood on the line to, say, start a business, but we need people to do it or else the economy would collapse. We need people to have protection from, say, having their business partner run off with all the assets. (Although I’m sure that still happens.)

  10. hoary puccoon says

    The house is in France, and it wasn’t clear how a home buy by two unrelated Americans would work there. My husband wasn’t being manipulative as much as realistic about the possible problems. I could have refused without losing him. But, jeez, a summer cottage in the South of France….

    People do form stable relationships naturally. But they also live very long lives compared to other mammals. It’s one thing for a couple to remain together for a few months or one or two years. It’s another when the relationship goes on for decades, accrues joint property, complicated webs of joint personal relationships, etc. Having laws that recognize permanent unions–and that give protection to both partners if those unions fall apart– is generally seen as a positive, stabilizing force in society. In my opinion, with good reason. (I see no reason, therefore, why extending marriage laws to same-sex couples wouldn’t be a positive step for any society.)

    • says

      Oh, okay! Sorry for misunderstanding.

      I think we might be talking about different kinds of laws, though. You’re referring to laws that help people form unions; I’m more talking about the ones that are intended to encourage them to do so (such as tax breaks, not to mention all the taxpayer money going to programs that promote “family values” and blahblah). Also, the sort of stuff you’re talking about involves legal agreements, which can be kept separate from federal policy, as I was discussing in a comment thread above.

  11. doublereed says

    I pretty much assume that almost all anti-gay marriage arguments are arguments by projection at this point. “Well I would do this, therefore they would do it too!”

    The reason she thinks this is a problem is because she totally wants to marry her best friend. Even though she’s “straight as an arrow.” Riiight.