Go to previous post:
Press releases we never finished reading.

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
Big talk.

Our Admirable Sponsors

July 2, 2003

Truer words. Michael Kinsley, in a fine overview of the upcoming post-Lawrence argument about gay marriage, pauses to deliver a prediction that applies just as well to most of our culture-wide permacontroversies. In twelve words:
It’s going to get ugly. And then it’s going to get boring.
[12:46 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Truer words.:

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2003, 10:58 PM:

Well, I can point out one fatal objection to Kinsley's idea. If your spouse is hurt, the hospital knows who to talk to about emergency treatment, and who to put at the top of the visiting list if the hurt is serious enough that visits are restricted. Never mind what Kinsley says about "getting ugly"; this is ugly right now. (Yes, you can have an individual contract; how do you get a third party to honor that contract in real time?)

This has happened even in that alleged bastion of radicalism, Massachusetts; there have been committed gay couples where the healthy partner was shut out by family who could never cope with the fact that their beloved child was one of "them". Yes, it can also happen to committed hetero couples who choose not to marry -- but they have the choice. And yes, this is an extreme example; not, I think, nearly as extreme or improbable as reactionary anti-examples.

Desegregation was (is?) ugly -- but necessary. Gay rights may not be seen as so necessary -- a study quoted in the Globe this week claimed that gays in the U.S. had an average higher income than the population as a whole (but they never asked whether this was because of sample skewing from gays as a whole to acknowledged gays) -- but they aren't trivial. I hope to live long enough to see one state in this union legalize honest-to-Ghu gay marriage and watch the other states find out the full-faith-and-credit clause still holds. (Looks like Dubya would have to do some packing to get a Supreme Court that would find an exception.)

I suppose Kinsley is just tossing off a column the way he tosses off the established body of law regarding civil marriage; that's his privilege. And it's ours to snicker at him.

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2003, 07:36 AM:

well so in getting rid of the institution of state-sanctioned marriage I guess there'd be alot of tax-benefits, government services that would be thrown out of whack. I bet no one would be upset though.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2003, 10:26 AM:

I think Kinsley ignored the legal aspects too casually, too. What I've long thought was more sensible was a detailed, enforceable marriage contract. It's hardly novel to have marriage contracts which are customized for the couple's needs. Lawyers could draw up a standard contract, which sets out rights and privileges that are pretty similar to what married folk have now, and people could sign those. Marriage itself could become a sacred act -- as it is already for many people.

With sufficient guidance from the Federal Government, tax breaks and so on could be defined based on the contents of that contract. The contract could also be used to settle ahead of time things like number of children, disposition of property or children if there is a divorce, and so on. There'd need to be some requirements. Monogamy should not be legally enforceable, though it might well be a reason to dissolve the contract. There would have to be a way for either party to break the contract, although reasonable penalties (such as child care, maintenance, etc.) could be required. No reason why the contract can't specify other things, provided they don't amount to slavery. (I think that a required number of sex acts per week would fall under my definition of slavery, but who's responsible for cleaning the bathroom would not. I wonder how the law would make that distinction.)

Oh well, just pipe dreams which I've had ever since I first read _The Puppet Masters_.

The usual thing that gay couples or poly people use is a binding power of attorney. Legally, you can give a person huge amounts of control over your life in the case of incapacitation and rights over your body and property if you're dead. Doesn't always work, of course. Hospitals are notoriously for ignoring the POA and only consulting blood relatives, but this is getting better, since some of them have been sued.

All of this reminds me that I really _must_ get around to having some POA papers drawn up. I've only been putting it off for 7 years.

Adina Adler ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2003, 08:29 PM:

Chip, if that article in the Globe is the same as the one I read, it said that most gay couples who travel to Vermont for commitment ceremonies have relatively high incomes. I found that a silly article, because it seems to me that it's likely that most people who go to Vermont for vacation have higher-than-average incomes, but I could be wrong. I would have liked it if the article had tried to place its numbers in some higher context, though.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2003, 11:02 PM:

Adina: fair enough. You've got the facts of the article; I was quoting what I got of the tone (which IIRC included an observation that the law was good for business because of the money it brought in). In either case it's about people who are nowhere near the middle of the bell curve, and IIRC it didn't make that nearly as clear as the raw numbers.

Elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2003, 01:05 AM:

Lydy mentions that binding powers of attorney may be useful for gay or poly people, but that hospitals sometimes ignore POAs anyhow. Back a few years ago, when I had three partners, I went in for some surgery. When we were filling out the forms, the intake person and I came to the section asking for the name of the spousal unit. I said, "Well, actually, I have three partners, and I'd really like them all to be on the list, since they'll probably take turns sitting with me for the next couple days here." She said, "Well, is one of them legally married to you?" I said, "Well, yes, Juan and I are married, but...." and then as I saw her begin to write down the one name in the space provided, inspiration struck. I put on my best "I've worked with official paperword too, and I'm On Your Side Here" manner, and said, "Well, you can put down just the one name on the form if you really have to, but it won't be accurate. But, you know, do what works out best with the form."

She stopped, paused a moment, and then asked for the other two names (Mike and Pamela) and wrote them in as well.

No guarantee that that would work with everybody, but the simple truth about accuracy seemed to bring us to a meeting of the minds. Accuracy is also a much more comfortable topic to meet upon than any of the social issue debate topics, at least when one is filling out paperwork, in my experience. (If anybody else tries this, do let me know how it works out, OK? Thanks!)

jacky ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2003, 10:30 AM:

very interesting, thanks