Thursday, June 27, 2013

Does the debate shift from gay marriage to discrimination against singles in general?

The Wokblog feature of the Washington Post has a detailed article “The case for cutting the link between taxes and marriage”, by Dylan Matthews, link here

I like the metaphor that marriage-related tax policy is like throwing money our out of a chopper – it can hit the wrong people. 

The article gives numerous examples where marriage can work against the tax filer (the “marriage penalty”, which can now apply to legally married gays), but in general the question concerns discrimination against singles.

There is a “social capital” question, too.  A society where social and familial ties are weaker may have a harder time sustaining itself against adversity from without.  Jonathan Rauch used to argue, back in the 1990s, that the singleton is an accident waiting to happen.

While we like to think about marriage for love and romance, the fact is that having a family (starting with a dedicated spouse) can make adapting to hard times easier.  We don’t like to admit that, in a world of individualism, creativity, and psychological surplus (in “Rosenfels” terms).

But the emphasis, in societal concern about the development of the individual, shifts from performance of gender-based roles (often focused around the ability to have children) to a more general idea of polarity and complementarity – and the ability to sustain an intimate relationship indefinitely when challenged.  Same-sex couples can still raise children and take care of dependent or elderly family members.  They can still “step up”.  A recent episode of “Days of our Lives” when the gay character Sonny helps a woman deliver a baby in the woods, when they have escaped from a criminal, makes the case. 

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