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Think Beyond the Marital Ideal

February 21st, 2012

Dr. J has been talking about this for a long time!

by Laura Rosenbury

The state supports one form of relationship between adults — marriage — to the exclusion of all others. It’s therefore unsurprising that marriage equality has dominated legislative and litigation campaigns. Yet by channeling more people into marriage, we limit our imaginations about life outside the marital couple form.

For example, family law has been silent about friends. This silence separates marriage from “mere” friendship, positioning nonspousal friendship as so different from marriage to be outside law’s concern. Many people may agree, but legal recognition itself is a salient difference between friendship and marriage. Married couples bearing or adopting children automatically receive parenting rights and benefits, for example, whereas friends face hurdles when attempting to adopt children together or otherwise jointly establish parental rights. The state constructs marriage to be like no other relationship.

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