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Marriage Abolition


bananaslug
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I know marriage abolition is something that gets talked about in feminist spaces from time to time, but it's something that I haven't seen discussed in the aro community so I wanted to bring it up here. What do y'all think of the idea that marriage is an outdated and ultimately patriarchal institution that should be gotten rid of? How do you think this applies to aro discussions of amatonormativity? I'm curious to know what y'all think

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I'd be fine with that. I think people should be able to have whatever types of relationships they want without a license, and marriage as a government-licensed institution discriminates against people who don't have just one most important person and basically makes it legal for the government and employers to discriminate against people just for not wanting to be married.

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I don't want to abolish legally recognised relationships. I want to expand and diversify them. I want people to be able to form any kind of legal bond(s) with as many other consenting adults as they like, on whatever terms and for whatever purpose they like. I want the state to recognise and respect the terms of any such legal agreements. 

Edited by eatingcroutons
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I actually like that idea Crou. I think the institution of marriage the way it is is discriminatory and even if I end up having one friend who is closer to me than anyone else I don't want any relationship of mine to be labelled as a marriage, officially or not, for several reasons. For one thing, I've heard a story where a man is given two loaves of bread. He meets two poor men who need food and gives a whole loaf to the first one but only a half to the second, then feels bad about it and goes back and gives him the other half. I feel like, like the man in this story, I don't want to have to give less of something, in this case the things I share with the people closest to me, to a second equally deserving person just because of what I give the first one which is basically what the institution of marriage would compel me to do. I also feel like the general attitude in our society is that you should protect a marriage at all cost no matter how it hurts other relationships, and I don't want to give one relationship the power to prevent me from having other good relationships. And also, marriage records are public documents, which means if I were to get legally married and was involved in spreading aromantic visibility, I feel like someone could dig the record up and publicize it to invalidate me so I would be silenced if people assume that marriages are inherently romantic. However, if the system were reformed so we could have different kinds of legal contracts for different relationships with no number limit or package-deal assumptions, I would probably want something like that to get the type of benefits currently reserved for married people without the negatives I just described.

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2 hours ago, eatingcroutons said:

I don't want to abolish legally recognised relationships. I want to expand and diversify them. I want people to be able to form any kind of legal bond(s) with as many other consenting adults as they like, on whatever terms and for whatever purpose they like. I want the state to recognise and respect the terms of any such legal agreements. 

 

1 hour ago, DavidMS703 said:

And also, marriage records are public documents, which means if I were to get legally married and was involved in spreading aromantic visibility, I feel like someone could dig the record up and publicize it to invalidate me so I would be silenced if people assume that marriages are inherently romantic. However, if the system were reformed so we could have different kinds of legal contracts for different relationships with no number limit or package-deal assumptions, I would probably want something like that to get the type of benefits currently reserved for married people without the negatives I just described.

 

It's interesting that y'all both bring up the idea of legal partnerships because I know that in many religious communities there's a belief that marriage should be something done by the church and that the government shouldn't be involved. Some of the religious groups that hold these beliefs have...poor motives (usually that they want to be able to marry girls off younger than legally permitted), but most of the time this idea comes from non-Christian groups who feel that, at least in the U.S, state recognition and documentation of these relationships inforces Christonormative values (aka: not allowing for poly marriages, not recognizing  that some children have more than two parents, etc).

 

I think a lot of those issues are dealt with in the suggestion that @eatingcroutons linked to, but I can also see where having shared housing and child-rearing as the only to options for legal partnership could be frustrating for many poly people.  A lot of poly folks live in separate houses/apartments from one or more of their partners, and if the polycule doesn't have any kids that would prevent them from having a legal group partnership in the same way that modern marriage does.

 

Additionally, I think having legal partnerships for people who live together brings up a lot of questions about multigenerational housing. If a couple lives in a house along with a set of aging parents would there be one legal partnership for all of them or would there be two separate ones? And what about homeless people who would otherwise consider themselves to be part of the same household? Do they not get to be legal partners because they can't afford a home?

 

Idk, I like the idea of legal partnerships based on co-parenting, but the more I think about the shared household idea the more I find things that would complicate it and leave people out.

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10 hours ago, bananaslug said:

I know marriage abolition is something that gets talked about in feminist spaces from time to time, but it's something that I haven't seen discussed in the aro community so I wanted to bring it up here. What do y'all think of the idea that marriage is an outdated and ultimately patriarchal institution that should be gotten rid of? How do you think this applies to aro discussions of amatonormativity?

Considering that amantonormativity was first used in a book entitled "Minimising Marriage" it's highly relevant. Since abolition is an extreme form of minimisation.
 

9 hours ago, eatingcroutons said:

I don't want to abolish legally recognised relationships. I want to expand and diversify them. I want people to be able to form any kind of legal bond(s) with as many other consenting adults as they like, on whatever terms and for whatever purpose they like. I want the state to recognise and respect the terms of any such legal agreements. 

This has two serious issues.
1) Extending the definition of marriage to be applicable beyond (socially) monogamous couples is legally complex. Whereas extending from just hetero couples to all such couples is fairly trivial. Requiring little or no legislative changes. e.g. the USA made this change through the judicial arm of government.

2) Legal marriage is mutually exclusive with legal equality

Minimising the scope of legal marriage (or abolishing the concept entirely) is, I feel, the only route towards a more equal and less discriminatory society.

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9 hours ago, bananaslug said:

I know that in many religious communities there's a belief that marriage should be something done by the church and that the government shouldn't be involved.

Churches are welcome to celebrate and recognise any binding ceremony they like, as long as it has no legal standing in and of itself. (People can of course also form a legal commitment in line with any religious commitment, but they should be entirely separate mechanisms.)

 

9 hours ago, bananaslug said:

I can also see where having shared housing and child-rearing as the only to options for legal partnership could be frustrating for many poly people. 

I don't think anyone is saying those should be the only two options. I explicitly believe that consenting adults should be able to draw up and commit to any contract they like. But as a first step it'd be great to legally separate relationship aspects that the institution of marriage assumes are always concomitant - the major ones being child-raising and asset-sharing - and allow people to legally commit to one independently of the other. 

 

1 hour ago, Mark said:

1) Extending the definition of marriage to be applicable beyond (socially) monogamous couples is legally complex.

I'm not talking about extending the definition of marriage. I'm talking about people being free to form any legal commitments to any relationships they like. I also believe that the government has no business prioritising or favouring any relationship type over any other, but that's a separate question as far as I'm concerned. 

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I don't know, I feel like marriage is an important cultural practice, at least for many people in the US, and I think abolishing it would require a large cultural shift before anything could be done legally. I'm not saying people wouldn't continue their ceremonies for a long term commitment of a couple, but it's been paired with the legal recognition of the partnership for a long time, its what gives the partnering legitimacy, you can see what happened when same-sex couples got the right to be married. It also is very important in other matters legally speaking such as child rearing.

 

I think a better idea than abolition would be changing the definition of marriage. Since marriages have been important for raising children, we could change the meaning to mean the partnership of the primary caregivers of a child (or children). It would create the conditions for individuals to pool resources to make it easier to raise a kid. People could still use it for today's meaning of marriage, but it might water down the meaning and allow more acceptance of people who don't want to get married. It would also change the meaning of a married couple from a romantic partnership to a parenting unit. So if you're aromantic and want to have kids but don't want the implied romance, you could still have the pooled resources without the expectation of being in a romantic partnership. If this meaning of marriage got enough support from the general public there could be a push to allow polygamous parenting units (I think allowing plural marriages as they stand today could be dangerous, polygamy is inherently misogynistic and tends to treat women as property. I know poly relationships are different but allowing plural marriage still legalizes polygamy too). 

 

Either way, it's a cultural change we need before a legal one. It's important to remember that even though people like us might not want to get married, it's really important to a lot of people. You can't change the law on a whim, you need public support and marriage abolition wouldn't have that.

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I think you're right that it is important to a lot of people. I don't really think it needs to be abolished, I mainly think all the discrimination against people who don't choose it should be abolished and that if marriage can be licensed then you should be able to license other types of relationships too and get the same benefits for it.

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11 hours ago, eatingcroutons said:

don't think anyone is saying those should be the only two options. I explicitly believe that consenting adults should be able to draw up and commit to any contract they like. But as a first step it'd be great to legally separate relationship aspects that the institution of marriage assumes are always concomitant - the major ones being child-raising and asset-sharing - and allow people to legally commit to one independently of the other. 

 

Okay, sorry for the misunderstanding, the piece you linked to seemed like it was suggesting those as the only two kinds of legal commitments, but I realize now that's not necessarily what you were getting at. I'm curious though, what other kinds of legal commitments do you think there could be? 

 

8 hours ago, Phoenixflame said:

I think a better idea than abolition would be changing the definition of marriage. Since marriages have been important for raising children, we could change the meaning to mean the partnership of the primary caregivers of a child (or children)

 

Hmm, I like this in theory but in practice, I think it could be very complicated. What if a child has more than two primary caregivers? What if a child's primary caregivers are a mother and older sibling as opposed to a couple? And doesn't that leave out people who don't want kids? Would weddings still be a thing or would they double as a baby shower? I think if you put enough thought into it you could probably work out all the kinks, but it might be more complicated than it's worth.

 

8 hours ago, Phoenixflame said:

If this meaning of marriage got enough support from the general public there could be a push to allow polygamous parenting units (I think allowing plural marriages as they stand today could be dangerous, polygamy is inherently misogynistic and tends to treat women as property. I know poly relationships are different but allowing plural marriage still legalizes polygamy too)

 

I would argue that many monogamous marriages also treats women as property (Just look at the Quiverfull movement) and that if you look at the history of marriage and marriage laws straight monogamous marriage is also inherently misogynistic (this is actually why the idea of marriage abolition exists in the first place) so I don't think that's really a good or fair argument, and even if it was, I don't think it's okay to punish polyamourous folks just because polygyny exists. Any aro lead push for change in marital structure should include polyamorous people, they've always been our allies and they've also created a lot of terminologies that we use frequently in aro spaces. It seems very uncalled for to try and leave them out of our activism. 

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On 2/19/2019 at 11:47 AM, eatingcroutons said:

I don't think anyone is saying those should be the only two options. I explicitly believe that consenting adults should be able to draw up and commit to any contract they like. But as a first step it'd be great to legally separate relationship aspects that the institution of marriage assumes are always concomitant - the major ones being child-raising and asset-sharing - and allow people to legally commit to one independently of the other. 

 

I'm not talking about extending the definition of marriage. I'm talking about people being free to form any legal commitments to any relationships they like.

Matrimonial law is the only category of law which currently applies to relationships.
Whilst it may resemble contract law it is something else.

It would be necessary to either alter matrimonial law to operate like contract law or alter contract law to be applicable to relationships.

Both of these involve complex legislative changes.

 

On 2/19/2019 at 3:07 PM, Phoenixflame said:

I don't know, I feel like marriage is an important cultural practice, at least for many people in the US, and I think abolishing it would require a large cultural shift before anything could be done legally.

That cultural shift is happening already. In common with the rest of the industrialised world the proportion of married people in the US population has been falling for decades.

 

On 2/19/2019 at 3:07 PM, Phoenixflame said:

I think a better idea than abolition would be changing the definition of marriage.

It's easier to abolish laws than alter them.

 

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19 hours ago, DavidMS703 said:

I think you're right that it is important to a lot of people. I don't really think it needs to be abolished, I mainly think all the discrimination against people who don't choose it should be abolished and that if marriage can be licensed then you should be able to license other types of relationships too and get the same benefits for it.

The discrimination arises from the state treating married and unmarried people differently. Altering the definition of "married" changes only who experiences this discrimination.

I've yet to hear how it's possible to have both legal equality and legal marriage. 

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I think if there were other ways to get the same benefits that were just as easy to get, that would make a difference. Marriage could also just be a symbolic thing that people get, like the state just recognizing that people have one because it will make those people happier but not giving them any rewards for it that are systematically denied to anyone not married, if people would be more open to that than not having the government be involved at all. I like Elizabeth Brake's ideas that people should be able to license non-marriage relationships in the same way for types of benefits that can only be given to multiple people such as including someone else on your health insurance.

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On 2/19/2019 at 10:35 AM, eatingcroutons said:

There was a fantastic discussion of ways to restructure and reimagine "marriage" on Q&A a while back - I'm not sure if the episode is still online, but here's one of my favourite excerpts from it. 

Did you also happen to catch the episode about pre-nuptial agreements? that episode was really enlightening as people were, individually and in their own personal ways, trying to sort out a partnership agreement then the lawyers in the audience turned around and said that pretty much all of those agreements could be destroyed in court and so weren't really worth the paper they were written on. 

 

 

I recently had a conversation with a friend about marriage (among other things) because she has now been living in the USA for a few years. The differences between marriage pros and cons (how the social sevices/tax department handle things and medical stuff especially), and the difference in marriage and defacto laws are vastly different between the two countries. It seems that (separate from religion) marriage means different things in every country. Not to mention all the really dodgy "marriage" practices like Nikah al-Mutah and  Nikah al-Misyar which have all sorts of shady practices and weird uses.

Basically I feel it should all be more inclusive. You should be able to legally register a marriage that includes multiple partners of any religion, race or gender. Religious ceremonies should be completely separate, not legally binding and also completely optional. Having a big day in a white dress will hopefully lose some sparkle if it legally means nothing and you still have to go to an appointment at a registry office to fill out the paperwork to make the marriage legal. 

.......Although having said that, Chinese couples have already divided the white dress ceremony from the actual legal binding by hyping up the event and having pre-wedding photos weeks or months before the event itself....and they are trying to expand the practice to South East Asia and America (probably Europe too) 

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On 2/21/2019 at 3:48 AM, Mark said:

Matrimonial law is the only category of law which currently applies to relationships.

I mean that's simply not true. There are entire bodies of law governing the relationships between parents and children, which extend to rights and responsibilities in cases of adoption, surrogacy, and gamete donation. There are laws that recognise other familial relationships such as siblinghood, particularly in the context of inheritance. There are laws recognising relationships such as power of attorney, medical and otherwise, which people can choose to establish entirely independently of marriage. ( @bananaslug these are some of the things often rolled into marriage law that I'd like to see separated out.) 

 

Even in the case of committed partnerships there are all sorts of laws beyond marriage. In Australia, de facto relationship laws automatically apply to anyone who has lived in a "marriage-like" relationship for at least two years - these are explicitly separate to matrimonial laws, and you can be in a legal de facto relationship with one person while legally married to another. In France PACS relationships are again separate to marriage law - they have a separate legal status and many French people get pacsed (pacsé) with friends purely for financial benefits.

Edited by eatingcroutons
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/19/2019 at 6:44 PM, bananaslug said:

Okay, sorry for the misunderstanding, the piece you linked to seemed like it was suggesting those as the only two kinds of legal commitments, but I realize now that's not necessarily what you were getting at. I'm curious though, what other kinds of legal commitments do you think there could be?

 

(scratch what I said previously here, I skimmed things incorrectly)

 

My understanding is that some immigration laws also treat people differently on the basis of whether or not they're married to a current citizen.

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