A Philosopher's Blog

Splitting Marriage: Civil Unions

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics, Relationships/Dating by Michael LaBossiere on July 24, 2013
English: A woman makes her support of her marr...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an earlier essay I argued in favor of splitting marriage and focused on the creation of theological unions. Each religious institution could define its own theological union in accord with its doctrines, thus allowing people to exercise their religious freedom. However, the theological union would have no legal status—thus allowing people to exercise their right to freedom from other peoples’ religions. Marriage as currently practiced does have numerous legal aspects that range from tax status to hospital visitation rights. On the assumption that these legal aspects are worth preserving, I propose a second type of marriage. At the risk of some confusion, it could be called a “civil union”—but I am not wed to this name. I am also open to the idea that some or even all of the legal aspects of marriage are not worth preserving and would certainly consider arguments to that effect.

A civil union of the sort I am proposing would actually cover a variety of legal relationships and would allow people various options. I base this on the idea that people should, in general, have the freedom to define their legal relationships in this context.

Those who prefer a more traditional approach could select the full traditional marriage civil union with all the legal obligations and rights that compose current marriage. In terms of who should be allowed to engage in such unions, the answer would seem to be that it is open to all adults who are legally capable of giving consent. Thus, this would exclude civil unions with turtles, corpses or goats.  The basis for this is the right of legally competent adults to enter into legal contracts. As I see it, the legal aspects of marriage (such as joint property, insurance coverage, and so on) are merely legal agreements that hold between adults and the sex of the individuals seems to be irrelevant. As such, same-sex civil unions would be just as legitimate as different-sex civil unions. People engage in business contracts with people who are of their same sex all the time and the legal aspects of marriage are rather similar to a business contract—most especially in matters of divorce.

In addition to the “standard package” based on traditional marriage, people could also create more personalized contracts of union. This would involve specifying the legal obligations and rights that define the union. In terms of why this should be allowed, it is absurd that the marriage merger is a one size fits all deal when any other contract can be custom made. As such, I propose that people can create contracts of union that would allow couples to specify the legal aspects of their civil union. While many of these would be drawn from the “standard package”, these could also include tailored specifications. For example, a contract of union might specify the division of property that will occur in the case of divorce. In fact, given the high divorce rate, such contracts would be rather sensible and would save considerable problems later on.

Given that the legal aspect of marriage are based on a contract, it seems reasonable that many of the rights and privileges should be open to people who are not in a union. For example, people should be able to designate the people who get to visit them in the hospital.

It might be contended that this approach to marriage fails to consider the role of religion in marriage. My obvious reply is that this is exactly right. The religious aspects of marriage should be made distinct from the legal aspects, which is why I proposed the religious union as well.

It might be objected that this contract view of marriage would sully the sacredness of marriage. This proposal would seem to reduce marriage to a legal contract and, of course, people might enter into such unions for impure reasons such as financial gain or to get a green card.

The easy and obvious reply to the sully objection is that marriage has already been well and thoroughly sullied. Hence, replacing traditional marriage with a civil union would hardly sully it. To use an analogy, adding a bit more dirt to a mud puddle is not going to sully its purity, for it has none.

In regards to the impure reasons, it is obviously the case that people engage in traditional marriage for such impure reasons. Thus, this would make civil unions no worse than traditional marriage.

As a final point, it can be argued that marriage is defined by the state to encourage a certain type of marriage and in accord with traditional rights. The easy reply to this is that the state can still encourage marriage types by specifying the contracts and that an appeal to tradition is a mere fallacy.

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17 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on July 24, 2013 at 9:03 am

    What Marriage is Not:

    “People engage in traditional marriage for impure reasons. Thus, this would make civil unions no worse than traditional marriage.”

    The fallacy? Two wrongs make a right.

    What is Marriage?

    “Marriage is a contract and is by its very nature above human law. It was instituted by God, is subject to the Divine law, and cannot for that reason be rescinded by human law. Those who contract marriage do so indeed by their own free wills, but they must assume the contract and its obligations unconditionally. Marriage is natural in purpose, but Divine in origin. It is sacred, being intended primarily by the Author of life to perpetuate His creative act and to beget children of God; its secondary ends are mutual society and help, and a lawful remedy for concupiscence. Human law certainly takes cognizance of marriage, but marriage not having been established by man, its essential properties cannot be annulled by such law. Marriage is monogamic and indissoluble; death alone dissolves the union when consummated.”

    See: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09699a.htm

  2. T. J. Babson said, on July 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Where would this fit in your conception of marriage?

  3. T. J. Babson said, on July 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Some more Islamic thinking about marriage. Very deep.

    • WTP said, on July 24, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      There you go…feeding Mike softballs so he can avoid responding to the previous discussion. While the parallels to fundamentalist Christianity are rather forced, Mike will be all over them like stink on Shiite. There are many good, decent Muslims who find these things as abhorrent as we do. Just not enough of them and they fear speaking up.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on July 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Do you have a problem with Christian women taking dogs for husbands, WTP? Who are you to judge?

    • WTP said, on July 24, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      Not so long as the dogs consent. I do recall an Iranian imam who said it was more pleasing to Allah to boink a sheep than commit adultery. So there’s that.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on July 24, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, has been hit with a widespread backlash after standing by her husband as he admitted to another sexting scandal.

    Back in 2011 when a heckled, harried Weiner resigned from Congress and apologized for the explicit text messages that had destroyed his career, his then-pregnant wife was notably absent.

    But when the latest sexting allegations against Weiner surfaced Tuesday, Abedin was right there at his side.


    I hate to say it, but I’m starting to feel sorry for Weiner. I suspect Huma doesn’t actually like men.

    • WTP said, on July 24, 2013 at 11:10 pm

      I trust Weiner will stick it out. Seems to me Huma doesn’t mind getting stiffed, so no worries there.

      • T. J. Babson said, on July 25, 2013 at 7:58 am

        Agreed. He’ll hang in there 🙂

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      She certainly has stuck with him. One possibility is that she is devoted to him and the marriage beyond what seems to be the boundaries of reason. This raises the question of how far loyalty in the face of betrayal should go. There are other possibilities-it could be, for example, that she thinks that he can still be a success and that she can benefit from this.

      But, I lack evidence in regards to her true motivations. Perhaps it is true love.

  6. T. J. Babson said, on July 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    3 felonies a day, WTP.

    However, many websites rely on cookies to enforce paywalls. These companies do this so their freemium business models can work transparently, without initially requiring the user to be aware (i.e., log in) until they hit the limit.

    The New York Times, for example, imposes a 10 articles-a-month limit for non-subscribers, allowing users to browse 10 articles for free but then requiring payment for subsequent use. But the method the New York Times and other publications use to identify users is unreliable and easy to circumvent, even inadvertently. Clearing one’s cookies periodically — or even using a browser’s private browsing mode — bypasses the flimsy paywalls and allows users to continue reading stories.

    Under an unsophisticated judge’s take, this act could be interpreted as exceeding “authorized access” (of 10 free articles a month) — and is therefore a potential, prosecutable violation of the CFAA.


  7. ajmacdonaldjr said, on July 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    pretty funny, or sad, if you’re married…

    see: urban dictionary entry for “marriage”: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=marriage

  8. Itolions Stalli0ns said, on July 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Weiner did it virtually. Clinton did it in her mouth. Spitzer paid for it. Only Stallion Rudy got her to take it in for free, with his kids watching!

  9. ajmacdonaldjr said, on July 31, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Monogamy: Who needs it? – http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/30/health/why-monogamy-evolution-studies/index.html

    Homosexual activist says gay ‘marriage’ isn’t about equality, it’s about destroying marriage – http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/homosexual-activist-says-gay-marriage-isnt-about-equality-its-about-destroy/

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