Society Has It Wrong: Married People Shouldn’t Get Benefits That Single People do Not by V. Larson

Society Has It Wrong: Married People Shouldn’t Get Benefits That Single People do Not by V. Larson

(Link): Society Has It Wrong: Married People Shouldn’t Get Benefits That Single People do Not by V. Larson

Excerpts:

….It seems, then, that single people have finally arrived [judged by all the attention adult singleness has received in the media in the last few years], poised to take their rightful place alongside married couples when it comes to status, power, and respect.

Except for one thing: single people still don’t have access to the legal benefits and protections the government grants to those who get married. In the US, there are more than (Link): 1,100 laws benefiting married couples, and that’s just at the federal level; many states offer perks and protections as well.

Spouses in the US can pass on Medicare, as well as Social Security, disability, and veterans and military benefits.

They can get health insurance through a spouse’s employer; receive discounted rates for homeowners’, auto, and other types of insurance; make medical decisions for each other as well as funeral arrangements; and take family leave to care for an ill spouse, or bereavement leave if a spouse dies.

These privileges are unavailable to the unmarried in the US, yet most single people would benefit if they were.

After all, singles are rarely all alone. They have parents, siblings, and other relatives, they have close friends and, often, lovers.

Why should they be denied the right to pass on their Social Security benefits to them when they die, instead of having their money absorbed back into the system? Why should they be denied paid time off work to care for them?

…Historically, men who didn’t marry were considered immature playboys; women who remained single were sad, lonely spinsters.

In both cases, their sexuality was suspect. Even today, when people have more freedom than ever to shape their lives, singles, (Link): especially women, are scrutinized, as any single person who has stayed with family for the holidays only to be barraged with questions about his or her love life knows all too well.

The idea that everyone aspires to a romantic relationship—or should—is what the philosopher Elizabeth Brake in her book Minimizing Marriage (2012) calls amatonormativity, and it’s harmful to those on a different path.

Having the government shut them out of certain protections is punishing. This is similar to what the social scientist and singles advocate Bella DePaulo calls “singlism”—the policy of making singles pay more than couples for their basic needs.

Part of the problem is that there is no one type of single person. Singles include the never-married, the divorced, and the widowed; the young and the old; hetero and LGBT; rich and poor; black, white, and Asian, and every other possibility of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and sexual orientation.

Plus, many see the single life as a transitory phase, assuming that singles want to marry at some point. Some do, but others don’t. The bigger question is: why should it matter?

…Today, the male breadwinner and female homemaker model is hardly the norm; 46% of US families include parents who both work full-time.

…For Coontz, it’s a no-brainer: “It’s absolutely overdue.” Keeping the system as it is might appease the moralists among us, she noted in 2007 in an opinion piece for The New York Times, but it “doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments.”

Even if men and women don’t have children of their own—and many married couples nowadays choose to be childfree—almost everyone has someone who will likely need to be looked after at some point, from a parent to a close friend.

The law professor Martha Albertson Fineman argues in her book The Autonomy Myth (2004) that the government should stop privileging married couples, and offer the same perks and protections to anyone in a caregiving role.

The law professor Vivian E Hamilton makes a similar argument in her paper “Mistaking Marriage for Social Policy” (2004).

The remainder of that article is (Link): here

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