Do We Really Need a Marriage Certificate to Sanctify our Relationships?

In this day and age- where marriage is no longer a financial necessity for a woman to ensure her future security– is it just an antiquated institution that us modern day couples no longer need to sanctify the love we feel with our chosen lobster with who we want to “mate for life”?  In response to more than a handful of domestic partnerships, relationships, live with my lover situations– couples I personally know who while they don’t have a piece of paper documenting their union, are as committed to one another as couples who do it is a question that I think bears asking.

o We Really Need a Marriage Certificate to Sanctify our Relationships?
I got some VERY interesting insights into this issue, which I thought you’d be interested in hearing…

From a Divorce attorney on why we get married: “Marriage isn’t obsolete, but it has become socially acceptable to remain unmarried. Despite being a divorce lawyer for the past 30 years, about half of my former clients get remarried. Why you ask? Even after the pain of divorce, many of my former clients miss the safety and comforts of marriage. But this time… they get a pre-nuptial agreement.” –Denise Rappaport Isaacs, Esq. has practiced divorce law for 30 years in both New York City and Boca Raton, Florida. She is a former president of the South Pam Beach Bar Association, a long-term board member of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Florida and the Florida Association of Women Lawyers.

On why marriage is so important to this Lesbian mom Eris Weaver: I’m a lesbian mom who was finally able to get legally married in 2008 and there is a long list of legal benefits & responsibilities that go along with legal marriage, most of which have been denied me as a lesbian. The right to see my spouse in the hospital and make health care decisions for her if she is incapacitated. Joint property rights. Social security benefits. Health insurance. Inheritance, if one of us dies without a will. Hell, we even pay more in income taxes than we would if we were married. (We are legally married in California, but the federal government still doesn’t recognize it and treats us as though we are single. So some of those rights listed above are STILL denied us.)

When my son was born 26 years ago, there was no legal way for him to have two moms. My partner (now ex-) was his legal mom and I had NO legal rights or responsibilities. When we broke up, she could have just ridden off into the sunset and never let me see him again. I could have run off and never had anything to do with him again. (Instead I paid her child support for many years.) I did not have any rights to visitation, etc. Now this is talking about parental rights and not marriage per say, but they are both in the category of socio-legal institutions that most straight folks take for granted but which us gay folks have had to fight for.

Even if you are straight, living and parenting together without marriage can leave you vulnerable. Your children’s paternity can be questioned (if you are married your husband is legally assumed to be the father). You can’t get on each other’s health insurance. You don’t have inheritance rights or property rights. If one of you is incapacitated, their family would come ahead of you as next of kin for making medical and legal decisions (unless you prepare specific documents). If you split up you are not guaranteed anything in terms of custody, visitation, child support, alimony, etc.

When I was younger (yes I realize that this makes me sound like an old fuddy-duddy) I had the attitude that oh, I don’t need a piece of paper from the state to legitimize my relationship but that was before I or any of my friends (gay OR straight) were in any problematic situations that would have been different if we were married.

And here’ s the other thing leaving aside the legalities. I’ve been married now twice, even without the legal benefits and IT FEELS DIFFERENT. To have stood up in front of our community and make a commitment out loud. It makes it deeper. Other people are now invested in our relationship’s success. It changes something. And it makes leaving a bigger deal. —Eris Weaver, Facilitator & Group Process Consultant

Why this mom blogger Zaimanhi is okay with NOT getting married:
I’m not married now but I have been before. Currently I am in a long-term, committed relationship with my youngest children’s father. We have made the decision not to get married because he does not feel that it will change anything between us. I know that I could probably push the issue but the marriage itself would have no meaning if both parties did not see the “difference”. I am happy without the paper although for my 5 daughters I would love to “set an example”. I think that people who choose to get married first and then create a family second are unique but I do believe they exist and that marriage is not yet obsolete. The reasons I believe that marriage statistics are down is for a couple of reasons and they are the following:

1. It is not important because a parent was missing while they grew up, their parents divorced, or their parents were unhappy in their marriage.
2. The family could care less and it’s not something that would is “valued”.
3. The woman wants to be “independent” and by the time she finds out it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be it’s too late because the man already has what he needs from her without the ring (sex, meals, kids, etc)
4. People just don’t have to be “married” anymore to do what you want to do (start a family, buy a home, live together, etc.)

This newlywed Stephanie Deckter  tells us why she still believes in marriage: I just got married in September at the age of 32 to a man who just turned 40. I think the institution is obsolete in many of its forms, but not as a way of showing your commitment to someone and making your life a whole heck-of-a lot easier (e.g., I can sign his credit card receipts, pick up his prescriptions).

1. I said that I think marriage is obsolete because women don’t NEED it for anything like they might have in the past. In other words, as you said, you don’t need to be married to have kids, share a bank account, own a home together, live together, grow old, etc. Plus, as more and more women are earning undergraduate and graduate degrees, climbing the corporate ladder, and starting businesses, marriage is no longer necessary for financial security (I didn’t “marry for the money” so to speak, I make enough to easily support myself).

2. I see marriage as the gold standard for a relationship (I like that phrasing!) because it is still the best way to show the world that you are in a committed relationship. I also changed my name for the same reason. Even though my friends, family, colleagues, and even acquaintances know that we are Mr. and Mrs., I wanted the world to know that we were a single unit with the same name — even before we have children and the issues that having different names can bring with that big life change. I also really liked the idea of celebrating our union with friends and family (we had a small, 50-person Sunday brunch wedding) and making an official, public statement of our commitment; again, this is something that simply living together doesn’t afford you.

3. To elaborate on what I see as the benefits of marriage as an institution, I do find it much easier to do things for my “husband” as opposed to my “boyfriend.” An ex-boyfriend once tried to pick up an antibiotic to treat my strep throat and the pharmacy made me come in (I was sick, mind you) to get it myself; with my husband, no problem. I just say, I’m his wife and here is OUR insurance card. I also have friends who decided to get married after being together for a decade because she had a medical emergency and the hospital wouldn’t release any information to her partner — again, something else I won’t have to worry about.

4. And I was definitely not influenced by pop culture. My husband and I are writing our own life story (I think being out of my 20s helps!) and we did not take into account what others were doing — celebrities or people we know in real life. We just did what felt right to us!

So tell me– do you think any of us really need a marriage certificate to sanctify our relationships anymore?


  1. anne says

    Thank you for this post. My partner and I are in a monogamous, long-term heterosexual relationship with one another but will not marry, in part because of some of the reasons you listed here. One other thing I would mention is that many people do get married in large part because of the benefits the government provides to married couples–but as long as people keep doing that, they keep denying those same benefits to everyone else. I would suggest that as fewer people marry, we reconsider the way that our society gives certain rights and privileges to people based on the status of their romantic relationships. Maybe we can start giving people equal rights just by virtue of the fact that they are citizens, and not based on who they do or do not love. And if it comes down to issues of property, then let people come up with property contracts–but that should have nothing to do with the status of your relationship. Basically I think people should have the same protections and privileges marriage provides but they shouldn’t be connected to romance or sex or old-fashioned ideas of family. If I want to give visitation rights and inheritance to my best friend or a neighbor, I should be able to do that.

    You should check out the Alternatives to Marriage Project–they can make the argument much better than I can.

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