Marriage shouldn’t be the dividing line between relationships that have legal consequences attached to them and those that don’t.
As the debate over who should be allowed to marry unfolds across the nation, law professor and author Nancy Polikoff is asking straights and gays alike to consider a broader approach to thinking about what constitutes familial commitment and how it should be legally protected. In her book Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, Polikoff calls for a revamping of regulations related to family law, including death benefits, medical leave and divorce -- all with the end goal of reducing marriage’s privileged status in deciding these matters. To make her case, Polikoff cites numerous examples of legal benefits automatically accorded to marriage that frequently end up hurting children and, for that matter, anyone in nontraditional families, including unmarried couples both gay and straight. As Polikoff puts it bluntly: “People who marry 10 days after they meet get legal consequences, and ones who live together for 20 years don’t.” If Polikoff had her way, she explains in the interview that follows, marriage would no longer be “the dividing line between who’s in and who’s out.” Instead, the law should value all families, according to Polikoff – an increasingly compelling proposition at a time when more than half of U.S. households are headed by unmarried people and one third of children are raised in homes by unmarried people.
Read the interview on Bookslut.